Brett Lee is adamant he is fit enough to lead Australia’s Ashes fightback at Headingley on Friday despite concerns within the team over his ability to last the match. Lee missed the opening three Tests with a side strain but has bowled for the past eight days and believes he has done enough to demand selection.
When asked if he was ready to play, Lee was blunt: “Yes, 100%.” And have you done the work? “Yes.”
He spoke minutes after Shane Watson said Lee would need a warm-up game before appearing in a Test and Jamie Cox, the selector on duty, must have reservations about the fast bowler appearing in such a crucial contest. Australia have to win at Headingley to have a chance of taking the series and retaining their No. 1 ranking, which will drop to four if they lose.
After improving his output over the past week, Lee, who has been given a medical clearance, does not understand the fitness concerns. “Hopefully I’ve done everything I can to prove that I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m confident if I was called upon tomorrow I’d be ready to get through. I was out there today charging in, bowling rapid, and am really happy with the way I’ve gone.”
At the start of the tour there were serious questions over Lee’s place in the side following a long recovery from ankle surgery, but he showed he was still Australia’s leading man with seven wickets in Worcester during the final warm-up before the opening Test. However, his plans were crushed when he suffered the side problem and had to watch Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle struggle while England took a 1-0 lead.
“Honestly, it’s been really, really difficult,” he said of watching. “I love playing cricket and would love to be out there. Sitting on the sidelines [was hard] when I was ready to play the first Test. Unfortunately I’ve had two muscle strains in 18 to 20 years of cricket. It’s just happened at the wrong time.” If Lee is picked, it will increase pressure on Siddle and Johnson, while Stuart Clark is also being considered following Australia’s problems over the past two matches.
Lee bowled with menacing intent for more than an hour on Wednesday and struck Michael Hussey on the side of the helmet with a fearful blow. His speed increased as the session progressed in an encouraging return to full training duties.
“I’ve been bowling for two weeks, and bowled eight days straight,” he said. “Most days have been bowling back-to-back, morning and afternoon sessions. Today I bowled pretty much a full session and my pace felt really good. I’m 100% ready to go.”
Lee was spotted on Tuesday in a private session under the supervision of the coach Tim Nielsen, the bowling coach Troy Cooley and the physiotherapist Alex Kountouris. His comeback has provided Australia with a full complement of fast bowlers to choose from for the first time this series.
Shane Watson, who will open in the fourth Test and provide some back-up overs, has his doubts over Lee. “Coming back from a side injury, or any injury in general, you normally need at least one game under your belt to have a big crack in a game before a Test match or a real big game,” Watson said. “I know from my experience that you’re not absolutely fully confident you are able to get through it until you do get through a big game. I think at the moment that there’s probably less chance of him being picked because of that reason.”
Lee has endured a frustrating month on the sidelines, undergoing several different rounds of treatment on the affected rib area, including one involving a laser. Wednesday’s net session at Headingley provided him with an avenue to channel his pent-up aggression, and Australia’s batsmen were hurried throughout.
“He bowled at full pace, which is not the nicest thing to face in the nets when the nets aren’t super flat,” Watson said. “It’s great for him to see him charging in. Obviously he’s still maybe a game away to get under his belt before he might be in calculation for selection, but it’s great to see him out there firing.” Lee thinks much differently but will have to wait to learn whether he adds to his 76 Tests and 310 wickets.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2009 and is filed under Cricket, General.
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