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Anyone looking for a tasty Ashes subplot needed to be at the MCG nets at tea time on the second day of the Boxing Day Test. Brett Lee, retired but no less lethal, ran in to bowl a fiery over to Piers Morgan, the television host and former editor of the Sun tabloid. Never shy of rustling a few feathers on Twitter, Morgan - frustrated at England's no-show after three Tests in the Ashes - claimed that he was good enough to face Mitchell Johnson. Lee then challenged him to a duel in the nets and Morgan didn't shy away. After several exchanges between the two on Twitter, including one Morgan tweet requesting fielders on the roof and in the street, the stage was set. Watched by spectators, Channel 9's commentators and a television crew, Morgan took guard. To everyone's surprise, Lee wasn't being charitable as he ran in in full throttle.
The verbal barbs began when Morgan told the commentator Mark Nicholas: "I'm about to ruin a great Australian career and legend." An unfussed Lee replied, "I want one six." Here's how our ball-by-ball commentary would have recorded it:
0.1 Lee to Morgan, no run, hit on the body. Morgan has the guts to give Lee the charge first ball! Who cares for reputations? Lee bangs it in, too quick for Morgan to react. Morgan fails to show his bat to ball but instead points it towards the run-up. "Where's the pain? asks a concerned Nicholas. "I don't feel it," says Morgan. Michael Vaughan offers his tips: "Stay at the crease!"
0.2 Lee to Morgan, no run, the 48-year-old is felled! An unplayable bouncer from Lee and a hapless Morgan tumbles backwards. Morgan steps forward, tells the bowler to bring it on and wants him to "try pitching it in his half." Shane Warne is a fan of Morgan already: "What about the 'come on, come on'. He's showing some courage!"
0.3 Lee to Morgan, no run, a snorter from Lee fizzes past Morgan. Nicholas walks over and asks if he needs the Australian team doctor. Morgan's having none of it
0.4 Lee to Morgan, no run, a bouncer down the leg side! Morgan can't get bat on ball to save his life. Vaughany obliges with tips: "He needs to go deeper in the crease. 'Stay in line Piers, get inside it!" Warnie can't stop gushing: "Tell you what, this is serious toughness and courage. This is 150 kmh stuff!"
0.5 Lee to Morgan, OUT, timber! For a change, Lee actually targets the stumps, Morgan takes Vaughan's advice but exposes all the woodwork. The leg stump gets a hammering. Lee charges forward and punches the air, shows Morgan the way to the changeroom
0.6 Lee to Morgan, no run, down the track is the way to go but Morgan still can't connect! Another nasty bouncer fizzes past him! So it's Lee 6 Morgan 0. "Hats off mate", says Lee.
Beaten, bruised but still upbeat, Morgan takes off his helmet but doesn't stop the verbal war: "He's a bit quicker than I thought he'd be to be honest. Boys (looking at his sons), you still have a father and I don't know if it makes you happy or not, I'm alive!"
"The warm-up guy hurt me more than he did," he added before reminding the selectors: "I am not quitting this tour and I'm available till the end of this tour."
Morgan didn't lose his sense of humour though with the follow-up tweet
Full injury list post @BrettLee_58 showdown - cracked wrist, bruised rib, and massive egg on back of head from...the throw-down guy.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 27, 2013
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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