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The Wisden Verdict by Peter English
December 17, 2004
The push for Brett Lee to play at Perth started before the New Zealand series, and gave researchers a month to find dirt on Michael Kasprowicz. He was squeaky clean in the summer's first two Tests, but after leaking 22 runs in an over, costing Australia the opening match of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy against New Zealand, the noise became a roar experienced by the most daring plane-spotters.
At lunch today Dennis Lillee was drooling over Lee in the nets while Kasprowicz ate and waited for a bowl. But after he took three wickets in his first eight overs, the WACA crowd had forgotten about the 12th man and were obsessing over a towering Queenslander with a friendly smile. Kasprowicz, who has 43 scalps for the year, was willed to five and made it, raising the ball after finishing off a tail that caused more trouble than the vital organs. The selectors had made the right decision.
Pakistan had made a steady start until shaken by Kasprowicz and quickly returned to old ways. From then on it was a day for Australia's undercard. Shane Warne may be the game's most prolific bowler, but at Perth he usually provides more encouragement to his team-mates than wickets, and has never taken more than four in an innings. While Warne added extra loop and accepted festive gifts from horrible slogging, Kasprowicz tackled the top order and left them nursing bruises.
Searching for outside edges as he pushed into the Fremantle Doctor, Kasprowicz marked Salman Butt and Yousuf Youhana before passing through Inzamam-ul-Haq. His relief was obvious and he deserved the celebrations. In the aftermath of the New Zealand disaster, the media swarmed on him at Brisbane airport, and he began the conference by asking: "Is there a mass murderer behind me?" For a player used to the fringes of the team over 29 Tests the glare was unfair.
Back on the field, Kasprowicz loped around as Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie sprayed their opening spells as if they expected wickets to drop like wins on the pokies. There was a similar sloppiness when Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami delayed Australia - Ricky Ponting gave himself a bowl before another confusing decision not to enforce the follow-on.
At least his hunches with Kasprowicz worked. Having disposed of the top order, he was called back before tea, knocking over Kamran Akmal, and finished off with Sami. Before the Test he had five-wicket hauls at The Oval, Bangalore and Darwin, but with this display he joined Australian cricket's mainstream. He knows the pain Lee is experiencing as a long-term drinks runner, and is not in any hurry to replace him.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.
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