Australia v England, 3rd ODI, Sydney January 23, 2011

Lee savours international comeback


Brett Lee is savouring every moment of his international comeback after fearing his Australia career could have been over after an injury-plagued 15 months. Lee earned the Man-of-the-Match award at Sydney for his 3 for 27 which helped set up a four-wicket wicket victory to put Australia 3-0 ahead.

Lee has been impressive throughout the series, producing important spells with the new ball then returning in the middle and at the death to provide breakthroughs for Michael Clarke. His first-over dismissal of Matt Prior on Sunday set the tone and he returned to rough up the lower order with some hostile pace, with plenty of glares along the way.

"When you've been away from the game for 15 months it's nice to get back," he said. "I never knew if I'd get the chance again for Australia. It's been a lot of fun and to win three from three is the most important thing."

It's knowing the endless hours of rehab, gym and training that he has put in that keeps Lee motivated along with the prospect of the World Cup next month. "I'm just enjoying my cricket and I've done that all season with New South Wales. I'm now back playing for Australia and to make the World Cup squad was something I've always wished so I'll enjoy myself."

Lee has been registering high numbers on the speed gun, but it's his control and experience which has been so valuable, showing the leadership Australia were missing during the Test series when the attack often appeared threadbare.

"He continues to lead our attack and it's probably the one thing we've been looking for, someone who you can throw the ball to and know he's a banker," Michael Clarke said. "His record speaks for itself and he continues to improve."

And, in a sign of how fortunes have changed, Australia now have a strong supply of pace bowlers. Alongside Lee's impressive form, Doug Bollinger took four wickets at Hobart and John Hastings put in a strong all-round display at Sydney. Mitchell Johnson is expected to be available for Adelaide on Wednesday after his throat infection and Shaun Tait could also have recovered from his thigh strain.

"It's going to be tough," Clarke said. "I thought John Hastings made the most of his opportunity today with bat and ball and he's a great guy to have around. Brett's experience and knowledge, he's been waiting a long time to get back into this team so it will be hard to ask him to have a rest. I don't like my chances to be honest.

"Dougie is bowling well again, too, and the more he can get overs under his belt the better for us leading into the World Cup. It will be tough for the selectors."

But after the trauma of the Ashes, Clarke's overriding emotion is one of delight at having stopped the rot and begun the process of building winning momentum. There is now the prospect of them securing the one-day series at the earliest opportunity with victory in Adelaide on Australia Day.

"It would be great, no doubt," he said. "I think for our fans as well, the people who support us every day. We've spoken about that; every time we walk out we are representing our country. We haven't been at our best in any game and we have still been able to win.

"It's a big game, win that game and win the series. We aren't looking any further than that. It's important to build momentum for the World Cup. The feeling in the dressing room is fantastic and the boys are stoked to get over the line again, but we have to continue to get better."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • John on January 25, 2011, 1:51 GMT

    @Meety, I agree about Abbott and Cummins. Those who say that there isn't enough young talent coming through obviously have no idea... Cummins is only 17 and hit 145 kph last night, was accurate and got swing and seam. Looks a really good prospect, might even be worth giving him a dash at the top level right now.

  • Andrew on January 25, 2011, 0:05 GMT

    @ 5wombats - re: Lee in the Ashes. Englands record against Lee is fairly good, but I do think we would of seen a better more consistant MJ had Lee played. Whether that would of influenced any of the results would be hard to have argued successfully. @ chandau - don't know where Bracken is currently (did see him on TV doing a pitch report recently). I know he had a bad knee injury & hasn't played for NSW since Feb 2010. He would of been invaluable in India opening with Lee. When he got injured he was the#1 ranked ODI bowler in the world. @anybody, have a look at the ages of Abbott & Cummins in the Bigbash NSW v QLD. Give those BOYS another 4 or 5 years to learn their trade & we should see big dividends!

  • Andrew on January 24, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    @ leggetinoz - 100% right re: MJ. I think Lee will be a very good influence on MJ. That is the aspect of Lee that Oz have missed at Test level. @Gilly4ever - I think that Lee is bowling as fast as any time before in his career, I think it is testimony to his fitness level. I'd love to see him consider playing 1st class games for NSW. Reason being imagine the examination batsmen would be getting around the country being worked over by Lee & Clark. That is the biggest thing missing in Oz cricket at the moment. @Steven Andrews - the thing about Haddin opening is that he goes the aerial route so often, if he didn't open you'd have to bring him out for the Batting Powerplay. I'd love to think Marsh has turned the corner - he needs another big score before the series is out IMO. @boooonnie - with Lee fit & playing - Oz chances at the W/C are very strong. I would also say the same about Tait but that seems more & more unlikely!

  • Oliver on January 24, 2011, 20:37 GMT

    I think Lee is what would have made Australia have a chance in the Ashes. He's similar to Anderson, in the way that he always has a chance of taking wickets. When England were batting in the test matches, no one really expected to get Cook out, or Strauss out, or Bell out, while all the Australians (save maybe Hussey) just looked like they were trying to survive every ball. I think Lee would have been the bowler to do that to England, who could threaten the batsmen, something the Austalians just couldn't quite do outside of Perth.

  • Finn on January 24, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    In all honesty I was expecting him to be very out of form and not be up to the mark but he looks very fit, I've heard he's worked incredibly hard on this, and he's clocked up some decent pace. Being English this doesn't make me all that happy but he's one of those bowlers you want to see do well not caring who they play for.

  • Arpit on January 24, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    all i got to say about Brett Lee is: CHAMPION...Brett is a true champion bowler and i thought the Aussies missed him in the Ashes..unfortunately, he retired cause of all the injuries the he went through...although i want India to win the 2011 World Cup, i would like to see Brett Lee pick up more wickets than any bowler in the world..i want Lee to be the bowler of the tournament...

  • Martin on January 24, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    Good player - tough character - never gives it up. Great to see him turning out and doing the business again. Pity he was not available for the Ashes.

  • Jason on January 24, 2011, 10:34 GMT

    When I saw Lee bound in and bowl his first over in the 1st ODI it became apparent what Aust cricket was lacking for a long time in test cricket. A senoir bowler to lead the side, some one the captain can throw the ball to when times are tough and either ask for a break through or tie up an end. They cant be just anyone, they have to experience, ability, confidence, cricket smarts and stamina. The other bowlers take their cues from the spearhead and succeed next to him. Aust might be ranked no.5 in test cricket at the moment but take Steyns away from South Africa, Khan from India, Malinga from Sri Lanka and Anderson from England and see what happens to them! Yes they are THAT important! Lee leading the Aust charge in the World Cup could see us right up there around final time. We lose him and its all over.

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    Yeh brett lee has a wonderful one day record and im pleased a good guy like him is having success. I think we miss hodge, christian instead of smith and where is dirk nannes. Doherty did bowl well, but i would give o'keefe his chance now. I think we can hold our own with the ball in one day cricket, i am still concerned about our batting. I dont know if i would open with haddin. i think i would have him at 6 or 7. i certainly would open with marsh and would replace smith with christian.

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    Brett Lee is the best player to ever play cricket and the best singer to ever record a Bollywood song. There is nothing he can't do on the cricket field. I absolutely love his celebrations, particularly the statue celebrations for Prior's wicket last night. diehard_pulkit you are right he must be half blood Indian.

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