Jack Brooks launched his LV= County Championship campaign with figures of five for 56 as Yorkshire wrapped up Worcestershire’s first innings for 311 on the second morning at New Road.
On the eve of his 22nd birthday, Lees made a buccaneering 87 from 135 balls but only a partnership of 108 with the dependable Richard Pyrah kept Yorkshire out of deeper trouble until Tim Bresnan led a lower order recovery.
Their mood may not have been helped by news from the West Indies that four of their six players in England’s touring party are not in the team for the first Test. Dickie Bird, the club president, suggested it would be better for them to be back home, playing for their county.
If this is not an official view, it is possible that Yorkshire will ask about getting Adil Rashid back from the Caribbean.
It was always expected to be a difficult start to their title defence and there was more reason for concern in the final session when Ryan Sidebottom had to abort his innings after on-the-field treatment for a calf injury. He limped back before the close as Yorkshire reached 298 for nine, only 13 behind.
As in their title-winning season, Yorkshire can find a way out of a tight corner and here it was Bresnan who dragged his side back into contention with a half-century of escalating power and authority.
The weight of his shots – he hit 11 fours in an unbeaten 78 - choked off the momentum that Worcestershire had established through their seamers. The spinners made little impact. After a nervy first over, Sachithra Senanayake was tidy enough and Moeen Ali’s return from a side strain amounted to nine overs.
National selector James Whitaker was among the spectators and an assessment is to be made to determine whether to fly him to the West Indies for the second Test next week.
In the morning, Jack Brooks captured Worcestershire’s last wickets for a return of five for 56 and Yorkshire immediately skewed off course as Lees saw his first two partners expertly taken in the slips.
Will Rhodes, on his championship debut, and Cheteshwar Pujara, the replacement overseas signing, were both out for ducks in successive overs from Charlie Morris and Gareth Andrew.
Andrew, at the age of 31, turned in an inspired performance after 11 months on the sidelines with a back injury.
Not content with a typically vigorous batting display, his half-century levering Worcestershire up to a competitive total of 311, he took four for 81.
In his second over with the new ball, he had Pujara skimming a low chance for a particularly well-taken catch by Tom Fell at third slip. More was to come on either side of tea when he had Lees leg-before after hitting 10 fours and two sixes and then Andrew Hodd neatly caught at second slip.
Jack Shantry, after starting the season with 10 wickets against Oxford MCCU in the Parks, also played his part, notably in the dismissal of Pyrah, an edged drive flying off to Daryl Mitchell at second slip.
Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie admitted that Ryan Sidebottom is “pretty unlikely” to bowl in the second innings at New Road after suffering a calf injury when batting on the second day.
Sidebottom called for treatment after hobbling through for a leg-side single, and was forced to retire hurt with the champions still 94 runs behind on 217 for seven. He made a surprise return to the crease late in the day to help Bresnan’s bid to secure a third batting point, but the 37-year-old needed Will Rhodes as a runner.
“Everyone could see that Sid was in a bit of discomfort,” said Gillespie.
“He’s hurt his calf and we’ll assess that over the next 24 hours. You’d say it’s pretty unlikely he’ll bowl in the rest of this match, and he’s gutted about that. But we’ve got a couple of other options.
“I’m delighted with the positive way we played to get back into the game after Worcester had us in a bit of trouble. Alex Lees told Bressy and Jack Brooks to play positively which was good captaincy, and I think we’ve made a psychological blow already getting so close to their score even if we don’t get a lead in the morning.”