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Alex Brown and Andrew Miller
June 24, 2009
Stuart Clark and Brett Lee are not yet assured of places in the starting XI for Cardiff, but that hasn't stopped them placing Andrew Strauss in the crosshairs for the summer. Australia's senior pacemen, who began their quest for Ashes selection in Hove on Wednesday, applied the pressure on the England captain in a less demonstrative, more insidious manner to the naming-and-aiming approach favoured by their predecessor, Glenn McGrath, however the intent was just as clear.
Clark and Lee have dismissed Strauss a combined nine times in 10 Tests, but their battles pre-date their international careers. Clark remembers Strauss as a batsman short on confidence in his days playing for Sydney grade club, Mosman, and hinted the Australians have uncovered modern-day glitches in his technique they will aim to exploit over the summer.
"Andrew Strauss, being the captain, if we put some pressure on him early I reckon we can make some real inroads," Clark said. "I'm not going to say I'm going to target him individually, but I think being captain there's a lot of pressure on him now, if we can really get after him early on in the series we can maybe create some extra pressure that he maybe doesn't need with his batting.
"I played against him in grade cricket when we were much younger. I think he was a lot younger and didn't believe in his batting as much then. He's very good in English conditions, where probably the bounce isn't as quick off the wicket as you get in Australia. He probably got found out a little bit in Australia in 06-07. I looked at some footage earlier and there are some definite things that we as a bowling group have talked about and we're going to keep talking about."
Lee played alongside Strauss for Mosman between 1999 and 2001, and described him as a "class act". But, like Clark, he also applied pressure on the England captain by reliving memories of past Ashes successes. Clearly, the summer's phoney war has commenced.
"I won't choose any batsman as a bunny, I hate that, but I'm happy with the record I've got against Straussy," Lee said. "I'll be looking forward, if I get the opportunity, to play against him again. He's a hard batsman to bowl to, but hopefully the success I've had against him, I'll put that in the back of my memory bank and hopefully use it."
Clark and Lee are both returning from injuries that curtailed their Australian summers, and will be desperate to impress the selectors at Hove and Worcester. Clark has played a handful of Sydney grade and one-day international matches since undergoing surgery to his right elbow last November, while Lee has been limited to Twenty20 cricket for Australia and Kings XI Punjab after returning from an ankle operation.
Both men recognise, however, that they are likely to be regarded as support acts to the main man of Australia's current attack. "I think Mitchell [Johnson] is by far and away No. 1 and the rest of are competing, and it will depend up on what make-up they want to go with," Clark said. "I will say that they need someone to bowl into the wind, and I have done that for 13 years.
"We've all been doing this for a long time. I've been in and out of the team a few times at state level. It's just the way it is. It's the job. I'm getting to the stage now where the young guys want my spot. I suppose they had it in South Africa and I want it back."
"Mitch and I complement each other well," said Lee. "We're a left and right-arm combination, two opening bowlers who can bowl over 150kmph. It's a scary thought for any batting line-up, because no batsman likes facing a fast bowler on song, no matter what they say.
"But if you're not on the right spot, it's money for jam, because the ball comes off the bat quicker, and goes to the fence quicker. You've just got to be confident and back yourself, and I'll be giving myself every chance in my preparation."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo, Andrew Miller is UK editorFeeds: Alex Brown
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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