Australia in South Africa 2005-06 February 22, 2006

Lee the leader ready for life without McGrath

Cricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting will use Lee in short and sharp bursts © Getty Images

Brett Lee is enjoying the extra responsibility of being Australia's main bowling man following the unfortunate absence of Glenn McGrath. While McGrath is missing the one-day tour to look after his sick wife Jane, Lee is stepping up to guide an inexperienced attack in the Twenty20 International on Friday and the five-match one-day series.

"[Lee] has been vital to us in both forms of the game - to be able to take wickets with the new ball - and we will be looking for him to do that again for us," Ricky Ponting told AAP. "When he is bowling the way he is, bowling fast and swinging the ball, he's very difficult for any batsman to play."

Only Muttiah Muralitharan and Nathan Bracken took more wickets than Lee's 15 at 29.26 in the VB Series, and Ponting said he was looking forward to unleashing him in South Africa. "Because he has got his own game in such good shape at the moment, he's really enjoying that extra responsibility," Ponting said. "We'll have other guys around him in the one-day side, and even when the Test matches come around, who can do the other jobs. Brett's strengths are his pace and being able to use that in short bursts, so that's the way we're planning to use him."

Bracken and Stuart Clark, the New South Wales team-mates, are likely to be the first-choice back-up for Ponting, who also has Mick Lewis and Mitchell Johnson in the squad. "I couldn't really have been much happier with the way Stuart and Nathan have performed over the summer and really matured into good international bowlers," Ponting said. "We're not exactly sure if we are going to have Glenn for the Test part of the tour. We'll have to wait and see how that pans out."

McGrath must play for New South Wales if he is to be considered for the tour and Michael Kasprowicz and Jason Gillespie, who both performed strongly in the Pura Cup match at the Gabba this week, are the leading contenders to fill any vacancy. The first Test starts at Cape Town on March 16.