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Lee, Bond head for battle on fast track

Bloemfontein : Two of the fastest bowlers at the World Cup will go head to head when reigning champions Australia take on New Zealand at Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

Australia’s Brett Lee has been making waves by threatening the 100mph barrier but in Shane Bond New Zealand have, for the first time in their history, an express quick of their own.

Throughout the history of cricket the fast men have been valued not just for their ability to take wickets, but for how they can intimidate the opposition.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting is well aware of Lee’s capacity to test batsmen’s physical courage and, after employing his pace to target Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya, is threatening to use him in the same away against New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming.

Lee, 26, had the good fortune to come into a team already regarded the best in the world. While Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie had tormented batsmen for several years with their accuracy and movement, Lee’s raw pace gave the Australia attack a new dimension.

His on-field aggression quickly made Lee a crowd favourite although, like many out-and-out quicks he initially struggled with his accuracy.

His waywardness prompted many pundits to consider him a liability for one-day cricket.

Giving up beer for 12 months in a bid to cut down his chances of getting injured, suggests he can be disciplined when he wants to be. Discipline is something Bond, a Christchurch policeman, understands well.

H e has enjoyed a meteoric rise since starring in the tour of Australia two years ago. Dion Nash’s injury led to Bond spearheading the attack and the Black Caps’ ability to fight fire with fire was a major factor in a drawn three Test series.

Injuries in 2002 checked his progress but he proved his worth again with 12 wickets in the two-Test series against India in New Zealand before the World Cup.

The only thing that can take the sting out of the Lee-Bond confrontation will be the St George’s Park pitch if it plays as slow as it did when Australia scraped past England in their group game at the venue.

That was a morale-sapping surface for fast bowlers. Cunning is what sets the great quicks apart from the rest and could well decide whether it is Bond or Lee who triumphs on Tuesday. (AFP)

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