Everyone's Favourite Australian

For all his 310 Test wickets, Brett Lee was a bowler who never quite fulfilled his potential. For, as a younger bowler, he had most everything needed to cut a swathe through the world's batting: the athletic, innately rhythmical action, the searing pace, and, in the right conditions, the ability to do unusual things with the ball. He probably should have been the next great Australian fast bowling hero, but the consistent excellence of McGrath and Gillespie, together with the later litany of injuries which has finished his Test career, cost him some of the plaudits which should have been his.

From an English viewpoint memories of Lee will always centre on 2005. Tearing in from the Pavilion End on the first afternoon at Lord's after Australia had been bowled out cheaply, vainly attempting to win the closest of matches at Edgbaston, nailing Flintoff as England's chase faltered at Trent Bridge and terrorising Pietersen on the last day at The Oval in a spell which touched heights of pace and aggression unseen on an English ground since the days when the West Indies pace attack stalked the earth.

And then there was the fact that he always seemed to be smiling, his demeanour embodying a warmth, sincerity and quiet charisma which I think made him as popular in England as any Australian cricketer in the thirty-plus years that I've been watching the game. Many Australian cricketers have achieved grudging respect in this country, but this was something different.

When it comes to genuine pace, two bowlers from the past twenty years or so stand out in the tableau of the mind: Lee and Shoaib Akhtar. With Shoaib never likely to recapture his best form, it'll be good to have Lee around for a while longer in the limited-overs arena, where he has often done his best work.

The incessantly demanding modern game mitigates against fast bowling excellence. As time passes, bowlers like Lee are going to become rarer and rarer. And, where they do break through, they surely won't smile as much.

Enjoy him while you can.

No comments:

Subscribe in a reader