Australia v Sri Lanka 2007-08 / Features

Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Hobart, 4th day

Lee rises to the challenge

Great bowlers need to claim the important breakthroughs as well as regular hauls. In two balls Brett Lee delivered

Peter English in Hobart

November 19, 2007

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Brett Lee's two wickets off successive deliveries changed the momentum of the game © Getty Images
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Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath had the ability to swing a Test on their own and Australia's greatest danger following their retirements was the struggle to regain the ascendancy when the opposition was on top. The problem surfaced for the first time in the new era when the partnership of Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara led to checking of the forecast for Tuesday, but Brett Lee changed things in two balls.

At the start of the 51st over Sri Lanka were 1 for 156 and both batsmen were so comfortable they looked like being able to save the match themselves. Atapattu was heading towards a century that would make any post-tour discipline seem ridiculous and Sangakkara's only trouble came from an unpredicted Lee bouncer.

Lee had grabbed the ball at the Church Street End and was trying to ignite his attack, which was missing Andrew Symonds and contained a struggling Stuart MacGill, who was suffering an arm problem. The fast men had been rotated, the fields re-jigged and Ricky Ponting's directions gained more purpose the longer he went without success.

The Atapattu-Sangakkara stand had lasted almost three hours, making Australia's cruise to victory as difficult as finding wind on the River Derwent this morning. Stuart Clark had tried to entice Atapattu into a misplaced hook earlier in the day and he looked vulnerable enough for Ponting to stand briefly at leg slip. The moves didn't work and as the sea breeze grew stronger Lee was asked to run into it. In his fifth over of the spell he was destructive.

Something in a Lee short ball convinced Atapattu to dust off his pull shot with two men waiting on the boundary. It was a terminal decision that ended his resistance at 80. Atapattu, who was hit on the shoulder at the start of the over, did not middle it and Phil Jaques calmly accepted the catch at deep square leg that gained his team match-changing momentum. A relieved squad surrounded the fielder and the players were recharged by the conference.

Out walked Mahela Jayawardene, who had been a difficult speed bump for Australia during his first-innings 104. The night before Jayawardene had called for his team to stand up to the world champions and when he arrived two of his senior batsmen had answered his plea. The pride in his eyes must have swayed him as he took guard.

Lee was warm and he sprinted towards Jayawardene to unleash a 151kph reverse-swinging yorker. It started outside off and Jayawardene decided to leave. He put his front foot forward to get his body moving and as it hit the ground he was stuck. The ball started to swing in sharply, like it was a tennis ball wrapped in sticky tape, and even though Jayawardene saw the movement he froze. His bat did not come down and Lee found his off stump. Neither the Australians nor Jayawardene could believe it.

An over later Lee returned for the hat-trick ball, which was bravely left by Sanath Jayasuriya and went through to Adam Gilchrist. Five deliveries later Lee's spell was finished and he was accepting back slaps from his team-mates. He had given away only 39 runs from 15 overs, but they were celebrating two invaluable dismissals.

Lee took 12 wickets in the first three innings of the series to prove his credentials as the attack leader. Great bowlers need to claim the important breakthroughs as well as regular hauls. In two balls Lee delivered.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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