Slow, expensive Lee sliding down the Oz pace order

Slow, expensive Lee sliding down the Oz pace orderSydney, Dec 28 : Australian main attack bowler Brett Lee, who lacked penetration and was not able to pick wickets at the MCG, will have to perform in the second innings to convince selectors that he has the ability to lead the pace battery for Ashes 2009.

Less than a week after skipper Ricky Ponting publicly aired his concern by refusing to confirm Lee as a starter for the Boxing Day Test, Lee again found himself wicketless and indebted to Australia's younger bowlers for bailing him out.

Similar performances like this could well find Lee sliding down the pace order, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

In Perth, Lee offered occasional glimpses of form. His opening four overs were sharp, and his duel with Proteas captain Graeme Smith intense.

The fact remains that after 61 overs in this series, he has claimed just one wicket for 200 runs, and has been too easily muzzled by South Africa''s in-form batting line-up.

Lee's pace dipped well below 140kmh in his final spell, during which he regularly strayed onto the pads.

That inaccuracy allowed the Proteas' to score at a brisk 5.23 per over off his bowling - he finished with an unflattering 0-68 from 13 overs - and relieved much of the pressure built by Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz.

A sign of Lee's lack of rhythm could be noted in the no-ball column. The 32-year-old overstepped the crease seven times yesterday, repeating the problem that hunted him earlier in his career.

Australia's bowling coach, Troy Cooley, said prior to the Boxing Day Test that Lee was still feeling the effects of his interrupted Indian tour.

It was there that Lee arrived short of fitness following a difficult few months in which his marriage broke down, and Cooley suggested his veteran paceman had yet to fully regain that lost ground. (ANI)