England v Australia, 1st Test, Cardiff July 6, 2009

Injured Lee in doubt for Ashes


Brett Lee has been ruled out of the first two Tests of the Ashes series with a low-grade abdominal tear and is no guarantee to play thereafter. As revealed by Cricinfo, the Australian fast bowler experienced pain down his left side following last week's tour game against England Lions in Worcester, and will be sidelined for the Cardiff and Lord's Tests at the very least.

Lee was absent from Australia's training session at Sophia Gardens on Monday after being sent to London for scans, which revealed a small tear in an abdominal muscle. His absence has thrown Australia's planning into disarray ahead of the first Test, which begins on Wednesday, and will deny the tourists the services of their most decorated bowler.

"There probably is a bit more disappointment that it is an Ashes Test," Lee said. "I'm extremely disappointed. I'm gutted that I won't be there for that first Test match. But I'll find a way to bounce back. I've gotten back from five ankle surgeries so I'm sure one little muscle strain won't keep me out for too long.

"I still see myself hopefully playing a major role for Australia through the end part of the series, whether that's the second, third, fourth or fifth Test match, depending on how things go. I'm very disappointed but it's not the end of the world. I've got a couple of weeks now to get it right. I'll be hopefully running in a couple of days if [the physio Alex Kountouris] lets me. I'll be working on my fitness ... and hopefully I'll be back shortly."

Lee was comfortably Australia's best bowler in the tour match in Worcester, claiming 6 for 76 in the first innings and displaying a mastery of reverse-swing, but his 35 overs have come at an immense cost.

Prior to the injury, Lee seemed certain to partner Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle in Australia's pace attack in Cardiff, with Stuart Clark and Nathan Hauritz duelling for the final bowling position. Precisely how the Australians will compensate for his absence remains uncertain, but Lee insisted the lessons from South Africa - in which Australia swept to a 2-1 series victory with a relatively untried pace line-up - would serve them well in the Ashes.

"I was going pretty much as hard as I possibly could [in Worcester]," Lee said. "I suppose I had to prove to myself that I can do it again. I never doubted in my own mind but it was more me going out there and showing that I can get close to the 100 mile an hour mark again and take wickets, which I've done. I'm proud about that and obviously I have sustained a small muscle tear which has ruled me out of the first Test match. Yes, I'm disappointed, but it's not the end of the world.

"It gives somebody else in our team an opportunity. We've got a very strong bowling attack here. The guys did the job in South Africa while I wasn't there. We've got a great bunch of guys, guys who are willing to go out there and do the hard work. I've got the utmost confidence in the guys that they can do the job out there."

Lee, Australia's most senior bowler with 310 wickets from 76 Tests, only recently returned to action after undergoing foot and ankle surgery following the Boxing Day Test against South Africa. The tour matches against Sussex and England Lions were his first outings outside of Twenty20 competition this year, and his display in Worcester last week had prompted many to feel that he was nearing peak form.

Kountouris said Lee could have faced 10 weeks on the sidelines had the injury not been detected so early. "We're pretty thankful it's not the more severe side of things," Kountouris said. "It is a relatively good outcome. We got it pretty early. Brett's pretty sensitive with his body and knows when things aren't quite right. We got it nice and early I think."

Kevin Pietersen resisted the temptation of indulging in a spot of pre-Ashes schadenfreude by expressing sadness for Lee. "It's a huge, huge loss for Australia," Pietersen said. "Who knows with the Australian team? It could be cat and mouse... [but] it's sad for [Lee] if it's true. We keep in touch and are pretty good mates.

"He's a fantastic competitor and an amazing bowler. We've all seen how he's bowled in the last couple of games. He's a huge, huge, huge player for Australia. There's his experience in the dressing room and also the intimidation he has on batsmen around the world, because he's the fastest bowler in the world."

Michael Clarke, Lee's Australian team-mate, expressed sympathy for his colleague. "He's worked really hard over the last 12 months to get back," he said. "I only found out this morning that he was having the scans, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me. The most important thing is to get Brett as fit as possible."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rohit on July 7, 2009, 18:09 GMT

    I am extremely sad that Brett lee is unavailable for the first 2 ashes test matches.I just hope that he recovers in time.Australia needs a quality bowler like him.Andrew strauss is in good form and they don't have warne to tame him this time around.Things are looking complicated for the Australians.But still ponting's men have an outside chance of winning this tournament.2-1 to aussies.

  • Daniel on July 7, 2009, 14:30 GMT

    Lee's injury is a blow to Australia, but England's chances of winning are still not improved. 3-1 to Australia.

  • Martin on July 7, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    Again I'm amazed that Harmison & Sidebottom aren't in the side but Lee's injury evens it out a bit. Also, as mentioned above, where is Krejza? Selection mistakes by Australia help us too but they're still slightly better as it stands and the best England can hope for is a drawn series. Or maybe a win if the weather helps!

  • Keith on July 7, 2009, 9:59 GMT

    It seems to me the English fans rate Lee more highly than the Australians. Personally, as an English fan living in Australia, I haven't been particularly concerned about Lee, as he doesn't have a very good record against England, nor has he been in great form for a while, so don't see this as a big loss. I really don't see how this could be the difference between Australia winning and losing.

  • Robert on July 7, 2009, 5:47 GMT

    In what was shaping up to be a close game that could have gone either way has now swung towards an England win. For those who have commented that it does not matter or glad or don't care if Lee played are clueless or have not watched him bowl lately. V. South Africa it was a dominating Johnson that gave us that series win but it was a 2-1 win. To expect one player to have such a big workload and win you every game in a 5 match series is too much to ask. Lee was the perfect ingredient to assist Johnson in having 2 strike weapons and without him we will again struggle to take 20 wickets.

  • Suresh on July 7, 2009, 5:33 GMT

    I think both teams are doing the same kind of mistakes. This is not Eng vs WI... or Oz vs NZ. Big moments need big match players... Harmison and Lee may have looked out of sorts in recent times, but when they get going, they compensate for all the bad times. I doubt if the Onions, Sidebottoms, Siddles and the Hauritz-es of the world can do that. The absence of Gilly, Hayden, Symonds, McGrath and Warne (for Australia) and Trescothik & Vaughan (for England) make both teams look a shadow of their line-ups from the 2005 series. While Australia could do little about retirements, England has done a shoddy job of managing its players, losing them to just about everything, from injuries to acts of God. This is going to be a tight series, not because there are two really good teams competing, but because there are two teams currently battling their own devils.

  • Senthil on July 7, 2009, 4:38 GMT

    Lee..........Lethal, Hmm one can only hope that Australia can do well without him!He's got a natural flair that no other fast bowler possesses,It's has become tricky once again for Ricky,guess this could be another summer like 2005, when Aussies dearly missed Pidge for those two test matches.Time for Siddles and Hauritzs.

  • Nick on July 7, 2009, 2:20 GMT

    I think we can win easily without Lee. Tht's not to say that we wouldn't be a better team without him, just that we have incredible depth and can do it easily. In regards to spinners I CANNOT BELIEVE KREJZA is not in our squad. Krejza has the ability to be as destructive and consistent as warne and macgill were. WHERE IS KREJZA?

  • hayden on July 7, 2009, 0:47 GMT

    if we didnt need him to beat south africa we wont need him to beat england! if this were a test in the sub continent then we would desperatly need his reverse swing but mitch, clark & siddle are still a very good pace trio add to that hilfy or dare i say hauritz and there is still enough variation to take 20 wickets! forget mcgain, poor bloke is probably still getting theropy about cape town!

  • Kejo on July 7, 2009, 0:44 GMT

    It's sad the Brett had to miss but to be honest i think Hilfenhaus should retain his place.He performed reasonably well in South Africa and should be given an extended run for confidence because we know he is talented.Clark hasn't played a test for a while and hasn't played enough competitive cricket for me but that being said that man is a true performer so it's pretty hard but in all fairness Hilfy should get some more matches.Aussie should also play Hauritz,i don't see whats so hard in that.They should just make due with what they have.A spinner should always be in a side for balance,it offers something that the same old hard ball,and i feel if confidence is bestowed upon Hauritz,he'll be a reasonable bowler becasue the only difference between him and Swanny for me is confidence and the fact swanny tosses up the ball more but that may be due to his confidence.

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