I still remember the days, not all that long ago, heading to Alan Border Field at Albion to see the Australian One Day International (ODI) cricket team in action when they occasionally played a practise match there before the international series began. On one of those occasions, mini autograph bat in hand, I wandered down to the fence where one of the players was standing at the fence, ready to field.
That player was Brett ‘Binga’ Lee, at that time a relatively new addition to the then extremely dominant Aussie team. Between deliveries Lee would wander to the fence, not a worry in the world and sign the bats, shirts, caps and balls of the thankful young fans of the team and its players.
That’s one of my first memories of a man that despite injuries has had a career better than most who have and will ever don the green and gold colours which today lean more toward the green side.
That stellar career today is over now, another injury closing the book on the international cricketing life of a great player and someone with a real interest in the fans.
Another memory was of that immense pace and aggressive delivery action which early on in his career saw him sending down missiles consistently near or above 150km/hr. Even in his more recent playing years he wasn’t that far off the 150km/hr mark. His speed put him at or near the fastest in the game in the early years of his career and up there with the quickest in the later years despite injury and an ageing body.
Selectors were so keen on the firebrand pace-man that they had wanted him to continue his career until the Twenty20 World Cup due to be held in Sri Lanka in just a few short months. This is testimony to the impact that the aggressive quick bowler has had on the game in Australia, that at 35 a fast bowler is still playing and still able to prove a vital part of the team fabric.
From 76 Test Matches, thanks largely to injury setbacks, Lee took a solid 310 scalps at an average of 30.81. In the ODI arena Brett Lee played a total of 221 matches, taking 380 wickets with an average of just 23.25.
In the test match domain ‘Binga’ bagged 10 five-wicket innings and almost as many (9) on the one day paddock.
For a tail-end batsman too he wasn’t exactly a slouch and was capable of some serious hits and stroke playing that would put some lesser top order players to shame. In tests Lee averaged 20.15, scoring five 50′s and a top score of 64. In ODI’s he managed three 50′s at an average of 17.00 with a best score of 59.
Brett Lee’s enduring success can be partly put down to realising that if he wanted to prolong his career as the fastest of the fast bowlers he would need to alter his delivery action from a high impact slinging action to a more controlled and balanced process, yet of course even with this altered technique injury still took its toll on his body.
Fear not, his final delivery in cricket was likely not the last one that cricket mad Australians saw him bowl over in England on our television screens, Brett Lee still has the intention to play on in the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League and it would be brave selectors to deny him those opportunities.
Brett Lee will be missed by the Australian cricket team and the cricket watching public for his aggressive, attacking bowling which he tempered down a little to preserve his body and to allow for more control. His departure from the game will be a sad one for many, especially for those of us with such great childhood memories.
Overnight the Australian cricket team again went down to the English cricket team in the final match of the best of five one day series over in England where one match was a wash-out. The Australians, in suffering this defeat after a rain shortened match have now experienced their worst ever head-to-head one day series defeat, a terrible statistic for a country that could once put down the English cricket side with ease, be it in one day internationals (ODI) or test match cricket.
Australia lost this series to the England side while sitting at the top of the ODI world rankings with the team we fell to so comprehensively being placed fourth on the list of one day cricketing nations.
Australia did, as far as scores go and balls remaining go close in every single match of the four that were played.
We lost the first match by 15 runs after a full 50 overs after England scored what is these days a quite strong 272 with Australia batting out the full 50 overs in reply only to end up on 257 for the loss 0f 9 wickets.
In the 2nd match Australia scored a decent 251 runs off 50 overs, but England eclipsed that with 26 balls to spare.
The third match was abandoned without any play.
In the fourth Australia started very poorly but managed to reach a total of 200 in the end, giving Australia’s quite strong bowling line-up a decent target to bowl at after what could have easily been a much more devastating collapse of our batting line-up. Again we went close, with England only managing to reach the target of 201 with 13 balls in hand, a surprisingly close match given the poor target.
Then last night, in the final match of the ODI series, in a rain delayed match, Australia scored in 32 overs a reasonably respectable score of 145, reduced to 138 under the Duckworth-Lewis system. With 29 overs of batting because of rain, England reached the 138 run target with 11 balls to spare.
So Australia was close yes, it wasn’t exactly a comprehensive series whitewash in that respect, the team did manage to exert some form of control and did s0 with at times decent batting and reasonably solid bowling displays which just did not result in wickets.
The point is that we were very inconsistent and to lose every match, regardless of how close the team got should have never happened to a team that sees itself at the top of the world rankings and wants to continue to cement that place of dominance atop the world of cricket.
Australia in losing the series were overall too inconsistent with the bat, with the top order performing quite ordinarily and leaving it to the lower order for the most part to at least attempt to post a respectable total.
The Aussies also, over the entire four matches that were played, regardless of how close were were able to get through reasonably economic bowling, only managed to take 14 wickets over the series, that’s an average of just 3.5 wickets per match.
All this is not at all to reflect badly on the northern hemisphere side, they capitalised on the poor and inconsistent form of the Australian team managing to take advantage of our poor batting efforts in particular and break through for wickets and they also made the runs, even if it wasn’t through particularly vibrant and widespread shot-making. They at the least ground out each win.
So Australia will now need to sit down together as a team with management and discuss just what went wrong and how this can be remedied so that we can manage to stay ahead of the pack who are now biting at our heels hungry and well within reach of taking us off the mantle. A team review of the series has already been foreshadowed.
The positive purpose of a tour like the one just passed is that it allows us to identify deficiencies before the major Ashes series which ranks so high above just about any other form of the game outside of the World Cup for one day cricket. We certainly identified those deficiencies.
Firstly, we need to get back to batting basics. Our core batting line-up did not contribute the sorts of runs they have been well and truly capable of in the past.
We cannot say as a nation that we have a dearth of batting talent and that our domestic competition in all forms of the game is second rate, it is not. At times you could say we have too much talent and that makes selecting the best person for each position and then identifying a shadow player or two for each all the more difficult.
What our batsmen need to do is to get back into the nets before the summer and to work on the basic techniques in order to be able to withstand the strongest of bowling lineups that other cricketing nations can hurl at us.
Our batsmen above all else could learn to be more consistent with our top order all more than capable, some world-beating, some in the early stages of an international career, but all who have shown an ability to play with flair and aggression which was badly missed in England.
Our bowlers, while they did quite well, restricting England to a highest score during the series of 272 need to do more than be economical, particularly when our batters fail as they did during the four matches, though they cannot be consistently called upon to save a poor batting effort. Taking under 4 wickets a match is well below sub-par and cannot be tolerated. Some time in the nets bowling at wickets might be just the medicine needed for some of our bowlers who need to be more aggressive than at present.
The team perhaps also in light of the injuries received to our bowlers may need to look at a rotation system where we rely, particularly in the one day matches, on one or two key wicket-taking bowlers and then rotate the rest throughout matches. We can then let the others focus on longer game match fitness in our domestic competition so that they are test match ready.
It should disturb the cricketing fraternity greatly that we didn’t win a single match against the English and a period of looking inwardly at our game plan, players and structure of the team and the management of that time are all a vital part of a mix needed to ensure that we again find ourselves consistent enough to win matches and series’.