Alex Lees expects county champions Middlesex to feel an entirely different kind of pressure this summer as they become “the chased” team.
Middlesex pipped Yorkshire and Somerset to the Specsavers County Championship title last September courtesy of a nail-biting final round win over the White Rose at Lord’s.
Lees insists James Franklin and company deserved their crown on the back of a string of impressive performances throughout 2016.
But he believes they will find it an increased challenge to defend their crown.
"They will come under a lot more pressure this year from everyone else, which comes with the territory having won the league the previous year."
Lees is preparing for an early meeting with Middlesex this weekend having been selected by the MCC for the four-day champion county fixture in Abu Dhabi, starting on Sunday.
“Their team will be pretty much the same,” said the opener, who has recently spent a successful two-month spell playing for New Zealand side Bay of Plenty.
“But it’s a different mentality being the chased rather than the chasers.
“They will come under a lot more pressure this year from everyone else, which comes with the territory having won the league the previous year.
“It will be interesting to see how they go. They are obviously a good team, and I’m sure they will do well and be the team to beat.
“They played the best cricket over the course of the summer in the Championship last year, and they were the team that deserved it the most.
“They played good cricket on fair pitches and got the results.”
Lees enjoyed success with the bat whilst in New Zealand, with the highlight an unbeaten 223 in a three-day Hawke Cup match against Counties Manukau in late January.
It was the Bay’s highest ever individual score in that competition, and they went on to make a successful defence of their crown just last week.
The left-hander will start this summer feeling as confident as he ever has done at this time of year, and primed to strike an early blow to Middlesex this weekend.
“Yeah, I can do,” he smiled. “But I don’t think it really matters too much.
“The early signs only come at the start of the season. Hopefully we can just focus on ourselves at Yorkshire. If Middlesex play well, they play well. But we just want to start well, worry about ourselves and get into a nice rhythm.”
Lees, who will be joined in the MCC line-up by county colleague Liam Plunkett, added: “To play for the MCC will be a proud moment for me given their links to the history of the game and the nostalgia associated with them.
"It will certainly be a nice little tick in the box.”