England Lions take Bazball approach as Alex Lees strikes 94-ball century against Sri Lanka President’s XI

England Lions take Bazball approach as Alex Lees strikes 94-ball century against Sri Lanka President's XI

SL President’s XI 93 for 2 trail England Lions 413 for 8 dec (Lees 103, Haynes 64*, Bohannon 58, Abell 57, Smith 50) by 320 runs

Alex Lees lived up to the fast-paced standards that he had instilled in him during his summer in England’s Test ranks, by striking a 94-ball century on the opening day of England Lions’ tour of Sri Lanka.

Lees, who debuted in the Caribbean in March last year, played all seven of England’s Tests in a remarkable summer under the new leadership of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, but was dropped for the recent tour of Pakistan after making 327 runs at 25.15, including two half-centuries.

His omission from the ECB’s list of centrally contracted players was a further sign that he had slipped down the pecking order, with Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett preferred in Pakistan, but his performance against a Sri Lanka President’s XI was clear evidence that the Test team’s new mindset is firmly entrenched in his psyche.

He struck 12 fours and two sixes in his innings of 103, the second-fastest century in England Lions’ history, behind Luke Wright – the new national selector – who reached the mark in 91 balls in New Zealand in 2009.

Speaking ahead of the tour, Lees acknowledged that an England recall might not be on the immediate horizon, given the importance of backing the Test incumbents in the current regime. But despite his intermittent success, particularly in two key run-chases against New Zealand and India, he admitted that a top score of 67 in ten Tests had been his downfall.

“I think I enjoyed being in that environment, especially in the summer playing in a successful side,” he said. “It was brilliant. I think my reflections on playing those games, I sort of played pretty competently but just lacked that big score which is obviously the difference. As a top-order batter, you’re averaging mid-twenties to mid-forties for the summer which, in essence, is what your Test summer is built around.”

Nevertheless, Lees’ influence rubbed off throughout a Lions batting card with a very “Bazball” look to it, as England declared on 413 for 8 after 67 overs, a performance that came at better than a run a ball, and included four further half-centuries for Tom Abell (57), Josh Bohannon (58), Jack Haynes (64 not out) and Jamie Smith, whose 35-ball at No.8 was the quickest by an England player at Lions level.

Haseeb Hameed was another man who featured at the top of the Test batting order in 2022, with his most recent appearance coming in the Ashes at Sydney in January, but he fared rather less well in his first outing as Lions captain. He fell to his first ball of the match, caught off Kavindu Pathiratne in the first over of the match.

In reply, the President’s XI reached 93 for 2 in 19.5 overs before the close, with spinners Liam Patterson-White and Jack Carson both picking up a wicket.

The Lions are playing all 16 of their players in this match in Colombo, which is not being classified as first-class. The President’s XI used ten bowlers in the course of England’s innings.

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