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Lee justifies Ponting's faith
N. Ananthanarayanan | February 16, 2003 11:21 IST
Australia's Brett Lee bowls fast but learns even faster.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old celebrated his elevation to the new ball by laying waste to India's batting in the World Cup Group A match at Centurion.
Lee took two for 17 in a hostile six-over bombardment to set the tone of a one-sided game. He returned to finish with three for 36 as India crumbled to 125 all out.
But for some streaky shots by the tail-enders, his statistics would have looked even prettier.
Lee's showing vindicated the faith captain Ricky Ponting placed in him by asking him to open proceedings with Glenn McGrath.
Lee, who vies with Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar for the tag as the world's fastest bowler, was almost unplayable, mixing short balls with yorkers and swinging deliveries.
Former Australia fast bowler Jeff Thomson had nothing but praise.
"Lee has just bowled better and better this season," said Thomson, himself regarded as one of the fastest bowlers in history.
"Lee has thought about what he is bowling rather than just run in and bowl fast. He is bowling a better length, he is sharp, charging in and he is fit."
Despite his sheer pace, Lee had struggled for a permanent one-day slot until late last year. He was simply too expensive and a luxury.
Modest form since his comeback from elbow surgery in early 2001 also saw him sit out the first two Ashes tests against England.
On his return, though, he looked a different bowler.
Lee also took 18 wickets to inspire Australia's victory in the one-day tournament which followed and was named man of the series.
England and Sri Lanka simply couldn't stomach his pace and new-found accuracy and India added themselves to that list of sufferers on Saturday.
Lee's sudden transformation from mere pace machine to consistent wicket-taker has pleased Ponting.
"The work Brett has done in the last 12 months in all cricket suggests he is improving all the time," he said.
"His one-day bowling in Australia was fantastic. He did a job with the new ball and at the death and he has learnt a lot about what it takes to be a good one-day bowler.
"He has got smarter all the time and he is executing what he can do. Better and better all the time."
Lee's improved success rate has not meant any let-up in his pace as he showed on Saturday by consistently clocking around 150 kph.
The most frightening thing about Lee on Saturday was that even his bad balls turned out good.
Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag were both dismissed after snicking wide, short deliveries behind.
After being tied down by Lee's accuracy, they both felt they had to attack the bad ball only to find themselves beaten for pace and unable to get their feet into position in time.
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