The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rhythm is key for smiling assassin
- Brett Lee feels he is at his best; Ricky Ponting has his plans ready for Sachin

Durban: Back in Sydney, Brett Lee can easily pass off as the boy most mothers would want their daughter to date. With a million-watt smile, he does light up many miles. On the cricket turf, though, batsmen wish Lee simply didn’t exist.

It’s another matter that Lee is bass guitarist with the popular Six and Out band. For, on the field, his renditions aren’t exactly music to the batsman’s ears.

Indeed, assuming it’s an India versus Australia final, next Sunday, Lee will be the most prickly thorn in Sourav Ganguly’s path. He rattled Team India in Centurion last month and, since, has grown more menacing.

Sanath Jayasuriya got the Lee treatment not many days ago and, yesterday, it was Kennedy Obuya’s turn to head for the hospital nearest Kingsmead. Obuya, of course, was the first of Lee’s hattrick victims.

However, like most explosive quicks, Lee has a softer (deceptive, at that) side — and it surfaced during the post Australia-Kenya match Media conference. “I’m not the malicious type... That’s just not me... Fact is, when you’re bowling at 140-150 kph, there’s bound to be some damage if the batsman doesn’t connect...”

Thanking captain Ricky Ponting for “guiding” him towards the fourth hattrick in eight editions of the World Cup, Lee added, smiling: “After having missed out on occasions, it’s great to have got one... It’s thrilling.” Chetan Sharma (1987), Saqlain Mushtaq (1999) and Chaminda Vaas (2003) are the other hattrick-achievers.

Given that Lee had five wickets in a 15-ball spell against New Zealand, it’s pretty evident he’s at his best. “I suppose, yes... Don’t think I’ve bowled better at any stage of my career... The hattrick will remain special, not only because it’s a hattrick, but I got the wickets when the ball was new. In the New Zealand game, it was different.”

Asked if he was disappointed at not getting the Man of the Match award, which went to veteran Aasif Karim, Lee responded: “It would have been nice... Having said that, Karim also bowled well and, so, deserved it.”

Later, talking to The Telegraph, Lee insisted he “wasn’t” conscious about speed. “When I’m at the top of my run-up, my eyes aren’t on the speed gun... Rhythm is what I look for...Anything else is a bonus.”

That should please Lee’s guru, Dennis Lillee.

Ponting, meanwhile, is looking to both Tuesday’s semi-final versus Sri Lanka (in Port Elizabeth) and the March 23 final. “We’ve first got to get Lanka out of the way and, then, India must beat Kenya... We do have a nice record against Lanka and I’m confident of our side doing well.

“Speaking of India, they’ve lifted their game from the time we last played them (February 15)... Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, specially, are setting them up pretty well and Sachin Tendulkar is firing. We know he can win any match single-handedly... But, if it comes to another face-off, we’ll have plans in place.”

Incidentally, while accepting his team did have some reservations about the Port Elizabeth wicket, Ponting said the groundsman had assured the semi-final would be on a wicket prepared “from a different block”.

Actually, going by Australia’s run throughout World Cup 2003, Ponting doesn’t have to worry too much.

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