Melbourne: Australian fast bowler Brett Lee's stunning test debut against India has rekindled memories of the hell-raising years of the mid-1970s when Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee ruled the cricket world. The 23-year-old Lee tore the heart out of India's batsmen with a intimidating performance of pace bowling to finish with five for 47 on debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.
Australia's leading cricket commentators predicted that the blond speedster would emerge as the country's fastest bowler since Thomson terrorised batsmen two decades ago with his 160kph thunderbolts. "To watch Javagal Srinath lean back and fend for dear life in front of his face, to see batsman running with agitation to get off strike, to see them jumpy and rushing routine defensive strokes was to go back to the Thommo years," the Daily Telegraph's Robert Craddock wrote today.
Lee announced his arrival on the test stage in the most dramatic fashion, claiming five wickets for 47 runs and belting 27 with the bat. He became the first Australian bowler in 22 years to take a wicket in his first over at test level when he bowled Sadagopan Ramesh with his fourth delivery, sending the ball crashing into the Indian's stumps while he was still on his backswing. Lee also claimed the scalp of Rahul Dravid in his first spell before returning to snare three wickets in six balls that effectively ended India's hopes of posting a big total. He bowled Mannava Prasad for six with an inswinger then trapped Ajit Agarkar leg before wicket first ball for with a toecrushing yorker.
Srinath managed to avoid Lee's hat-trick ball but fell on the final delivery of the over when he gloved a 154 kph bouncer to Mark Waugh at second slip. The Australian newspaper's respected cricket columnist Mike Coward wrote that Lee had shown enough in that one scintillating afternoon to suggest he had the makings of a genuine test star. "Lee shows signs of being a very special cricketer, someone destined to carry the standard of Australia to the world for years to come,'' Coward wrote.
"For all the happy hype that preceded his selection, there was no guarantee that 23-year-old Lee was going to turn heads in his debut. But turn them he did with an enthralling exhibition of genuine pace bowling that will be talked about for as long as the game is played.
"Australian captain Steve Waugh has already gone on record to say he regards Lee as the fastest bowler in the world today and actively encouraged the national selectors to pick him after playing alongside him in a recent interstate match. Lee, whose older brother Shane was a member of the Australian limited-overs team that won this year's world cup in England, was picked as 12th man for last month's final test against Pakistan to get a taste of the big time. He was left out of the squad for the opening test against India on the spin-friendly Adelaide Oval before being rushed into the starting side on the lively MCG strip.