Lee boosts first Test credentials
Paceman Brett Lee staked a massive claim to be part of the Australia side for the first Ashes Test with a devastating spell against England Lions at New Road.
Lions batsman Stephen Moore had threatened to dominate the second day with a century on his home ground during an opening stand of 172 with Joe Denly in reply to the tourists’ first innings total of 358.
But Lee altered the complexion of the game with a five wicket burst - including Moore for 120 - as he bowled with great accuracy and sustained hostility.
The 31-year-old has not played a Test since facing South Africa in Melbourne in December, after which he underwent ankle surgery, and Mitchell Johnson has effectively replaced him as Australia’s number one strike bowler.
Lee went into the four-day clash at Worcester not gauranteed to start the opening Test in Cardiff next Wednesday and vying for two places with fellow paceman Stuart Clark and spinner Nathan Hauritz.
But Lee showed he can still be a force to be reckoned with as Denly, Ian Bell, Vikram Solanki, Moore and Eoin Morgan were all dismissed in a deadly seven-over spell.
His impact could have been even greater as Moore was fortunate to survive an lbw shout before he had scored from the first delivery of Lee’s new ball spell.
Television replays suggested that the delivery struck Moore’s pad in front of the stumps before it hit the inside edge of his bat.
In contrast, the remainder of the Australia attack, including Johnson, laboured to make any sort of impression on an unresponsive and slow wicket.
Moore also had another let off on 41 when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spilled a chance after he had edged a delivery from Clark.
In between the Worcestershire batsman played a series of fine shots in moving to three figures off 147 balls with 14 fours and two sixes.
Moore’s knock repaid the faith maintained in him by the selectors after a poor start to the campaign with Worcestershire - a sharp contrast to 2008 when he was the highest scorer in the country with first-class 1,451 runs.
But the 28-year-old showed his potential in front of national selector Geoff Miller and saluted all parts of the ground after driving Lee to the cover boundary to reach his ton.
Australia spinner Nathan Hauritz again failed to impress with Moore and Denly both lofting him for six and it needed the return of Lee to break the opening stand and bring the tourists back into the game.
Denly was bowled for 66 by a swinging delivery and Lions skipper Bell was trapped lbw for a first ball duck.
Solanki dug out the hat-trick yorker but made only eight being being bowled off his pads.
Moore’s fine innings came to an end on 120 when he tried top-edged a pull off Lee to Haddin, running back. Moore faced 176 balls and struck 15 fours and two sixes.
Lee completed his five-for when Morgan (four) became his second lbw victim as Lions lost five wickets for 37 runs in 12 overs.
But Worcestershire keeper Steve Davies and Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid redressed the balance with a sixth wicket stand of 86.
Davies made 53 including seven fours before he edged part-time spinner Marcus North to Michael Clarke at slip, but Rashid finished unbeaten on 36 out of 302 for six from 81 overs.
Earlier, the Lions needed only 6.4 overs to polish off Australia’s final two first innings wickets on a scorching morning.
Mike Hussey, who had resumed on 143 not out, brought up his 150 with a cover drive for two off Graham Onions but it was to be his last scoring shot.
Steve Harmison ended Hussey’s 234-ball innings, which contained 19 fours, bowling the left-hander with a delivery of fullish length.
Last man Clark quickly moved into double figures with 10 off the remaining five balls of Harmison’s over, including two boundaries.
Hauritz resisted more than hour for 11 before he attempted to pull Onions and sliced a catch to Denly at point.
Harmison finished with 4-80 from 25 overs and Onions 3-70 from 23.4 overs.