Ahmedabad, Marc 21: The man who took the second-most number of wickets in the 2003 World Cup is back to his menacing best and India would do well to watch out for him. Indeed, Aussie pace spearhead Brett Lee has regained his touch as a very effective bowler and after a period of hiatus last year, is back with a bang. Judging by the six games he has played in this tournament so far, Lee could prove quite a handful to India when the two sides meet in the quarterfinal on Thursday, March 24.
After all, in the ongoing global event, Lee has packed quite a punch, taking a dozen wickets at a mind-boggling average of 16.66. He started off the event rather slowly, taking just one scalp in each of his first four games, but even in those he has gone for only a few runs, being difficult to get away outside the ring or through the gaps. Such has been this player's accuracy - fast, straight and more often than not, short of a length. He hits the deck often and bowls in the zone which makes life very uncomfortable for the batsmen facing him.
In his last two matches, the bowler has been in devastating form. Uncharacteriscally, he came in for some stick at the hands of Canadian opening batsman Hiral Patel who blasted 54 off 45 balls. But then Lee came into his own, finishing with figures of 4/46 in that match as he helped his side restrict the stuttering Mapleleafs to 211.
But in the match against Pakistan, he almost single-handedly deprived the opponents of a win with his relentless pace and precision. He removed opener Mohammad Hafeez in his first spell, came back in his second to effect a double strike in one over and finished with ominously impressive figures of 4/28. Indeed, he gave the Pakistanis quite a run for their money in the latter's bid to top Group A. In the end, thanks to a fine hand from the young Umar Akmal, Pakistan overcame the scourge of Lee and reached home with four wickets and 54 balls to spare.
India's woes at facing unadulterated pace have been well documented over the years. While the Indian top order initially tore through the South African new ball in their World Cup 2011 encounter on March 12, the Proteas pace battery was able to demolish the middle and latter order.
Now a similar possibility looms, especially as India faces the likes of Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. After all, even in the World Cup warm-up match at Bengaluru last month, India struggled against this pace battery. Now with three days to go for D-day, the Indian camp will have to do their home-work and figure out how to handle Brett Lee and Co...