June 11, 2002

Pace duel under the roof

MELBOURNE - The magic number for pacemen Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar here tomorrow at Colonial Stadium will be 100, as in miles per hour.

But for Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, the key for Lee is the number five.

Ponting, concerned about his fastest bowler's economy rate in one-dayers, does not want Lee to give away more than five runs an over.

The series is being billed as a speed test between Lee and Shoaib, regarded as the two fastest bowlers in world cricket.

They will be part of the focus of a $75,000 promotion for the three-match series between the two teams, where a lucky fan in each match will win $25,000 if a bowler exceeds 100mph (160.9kph) or a batsman scores 100 in 100 balls or fewer.

"I imagine he [Lee] would be pretty excited about it - I just hope he doesn't get too carried away with it and try to bowl them too quick and spray them all over the place," Ponting said.

"The worst thing to come out of it would be if he had an injury.

"He's got to start getting his economy rate down."

Ponting said the drop-in pitch looked good for one-day cricket and should be conducive to big scores.

The special pitch has the look of particle board and will be rock-hard.

"If it's anything like last time, it played very well," he said of the pitch.

"It wasn't overly quick, but the bounce was very consistent, which is obviously what you need for one-day cricket."

He and Pakistan counterpart Waqar Younis are pleased with the stadium, although Waqar admitted to concerns about the outfield.

The Pakistan skipper said the surface was slippery and bumpy, but added that might change before the match.

"The groundsman said he's going to cut the grass and roll it, hopefully it will be all right," he said.