Lee in frame for Test recall
Brett Lee’s impressive performance against England Lions has put him firmly back in contention for an Australia recall for the final Ashes Test.
The 32-year-old fast bowler has not featured so far in the series after picking up a side strain during the tourists’ first warm-up match against the Lions last month.
Lee returned to action at the weekend in Canterbury, where Australia were playing England’s second string ahead of this week’s crucial fifth npower Test.
The veteran produced a fine display of seam bowling to remove Joe Sayers, Stephen Moore and Liam Plunkett to end with figures of 3-37.
Now Australia head coach Tim Nielsen and captain Ricky Ponting face the dilemma of sticking with the bowling attack which removed England for 102 and 263 at Headingley Carnegie, or recalling Lee.
Nielsen said: “All the things he brings to the table are really positive. He’s very much putting his hand up for selection.
“He bowled with good pace, swung the new ball away then had some success reversing it in Canterbury.
“That eases one of the concerns that the first time he went flat out in a game environment, his body might react poorly.”
Lee’s performances were instrumental in taking England apart during their 5-0 Ashes whitewash in 2006-07, while he also played every game of Australia’s series defeat in 2005.
Nielsen believes conditions at the Brit Oval, where the decisive Test will begin on Thursday, could help the seamer push for a recall.
“Historically, it’s a drier surface that does bounce and carry a bit and those sort of conditions can help the ball get scuffed up, which everyone knows it can reverse (swing),” the Australia coach added.
“I think if it does reverse, he’ll very much put his hand up. When that’s happening, Brett is as good an exponent of that as anyone in the world.
“As long as he’s fit and gets through the next three days and the conditions suit, he’ll very much come into contention to play.
“We’re trying to be sensible and calm and make the best decisions about what the best team is for the conditions we play in.”
Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson picked up six wickets each in Leeds and Stuart Clark marked his first series appearance by taking three crucial scalps in England’s first innings.
Ben Hilfenhaus has also been instrumental in Australia's pace attack, which has left Nielsen in a confident mood ahead of this week’s match.
“Like we saw at Headingley, our bowling group is what we need to get right,” he said.
“When we have a group that bowls well together, we have a bowling group that can bowl anyone out on any surface and we showed that in South Africa and we’ve shown that in Australia.”