November 08, 1976, Wollongong, New South Wales
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
Brett Lee excelled as an exponent of extreme speed over a decade without achieving the all-conquering success required to earn the tag of a true Test great. Fast and with a flashy smile that added to his star quality, he finished as Australia's fourth-most successful bowler with 310 wickets in 76 matches. A refusal to bow to severe injuries increases his rating, but for most of his career he operated as brutal support for Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie. In his final two years he was a highly dependable attack leader until his body limited his ability to back up in five-day contests.
At his best he gained outswing with the new ball and reverse with the older one, making him even more difficult for batsmen trying to steady themselves while knowing he could reach 160kph. The charging run-up and leaping celebrations added to the theatre for a bowler who made an instant impact when taking five wickets on debut at the MCG. Forty-two victims came in his opening seven Tests to gain him an A-list reputation, but he was soon in rehabilitation after an elbow operation. His ankles were a popular site for surgery and there were also side strains and stress fractures in a familiar cycle of breath-taking pace, painful injury and long-term layoff.
After starting by shaking up batsmen with short balls and yorkers, Lee became a smarter operator under Ricky Ponting's captaincy and knew when to deliver a burst of speed or a containing spell. In nine Tests following McGrath's departure, Lee stood up with 58 victims at 21.55 and also won the Allan Border Medal in 2008. During that period he helped keep the rebuilding side on top of the world.
Life soon became harder again and after returning from more ankle surgery - his last act in a Test was limping off the MCG with a broken foot - he missed the 2009 Ashes with a side strain. England wasn't a kind host for Lee, who was consoled by Andrew Flintoff during his absorbing yet heart-breaking batting near-miss in Edgbaston in 2005. He was a courageous run-maker who would deflect or absorb the efforts of opposing fast men as they searched for payback.
A gentleman off the field, he was aggressive on it and rarely went over the top in comparison to his team-mates, although his bouncers at the tail-enders were uncomfortable viewing. Mostly he was a shining example to young players in all forms of the game. He retired from Tests at the beginning of 2010 to prolong his career in the shorter forms: in those affairs he could stay true to himself by attempting to operate at optimum speed while reducing the load on his aching body. He finally retired from all international cricket in July 2012.
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