The predator from down under

Brett Lee... was on fire throughout.-Pic. REUTERS

SPEEDS thrills, it also kills. He thrilled the senses with his speed, killed the "enemy" with his thunderbolts. Brett Lee sizzled, and the batsmen fizzled.

SPEEDS thrills, it also kills. He thrilled the senses with his speed, killed the "enemy" with his thunderbolts. Brett Lee sizzled, and the batsmen fizzled.

Indeed, one of the most exciting sights in Southern Africa was Lee steaming in, his eyes firmly focussed on his prey, unleashing deliveries of blinding pace and vicious swing. The predator from down under, who had his adversaries `down and under.'

The Aussie Hit Man was on target all right, fast and furious, unrelenting and ruthless. It was the batsmen who left with bruised egos and limbs.

Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya and Kenyan opener Kennedy Obuya were both undone by rising deliveries, rendered hors de combat during the Super Six clashes against Australia, while the smooth stroking emerald islander Marvan Atappatu saw his stumps being shattered by a 160 kmph missile in the semifinal.

It was aggressive, attacking bowling at its very best — the ideal form of containment is taking wickets, right? Each time Lee punched downwards, in sheer, unbridled joy, he was making a point — that he was the meanest of them all.

Lee's game-plan was simple and effective — he would push the batsmen on to the back-foot with well-directed short-pitched stuff, setting up the dismissal, and then nail 'em with deliveries of fuller length. It worked like magic.

The clash between Pakistani tornado Shoaib Akhtar and Lee was a much sought after duel in the World Cup. While Akhtar too was `lightning', he was hampered by a lack of consistency.

The 25-year-old Lee certainly got his radar right in the latter stages and this meant he was doubly dangerous. His deadly reverse swinging yorkers hit the target unerringly; for hapless batsmen, it was more like being sliced open by a dagger.

The Aussie scalped 22 in all, just one behind Chaminda Vaas' record breaking tally in the World Cup, and did combine wonderfully well with Glenn McGrath as his new ball partner after the injury-prone Jason Gillespie flew home before the Super Six stage. McGrath, the assassin with machine-like precision, Lee, the explosive terminator.

In the league phase, Lee did endure some forgettable moments like when Zimbabwe's Andy Blignaut went after him in the Pool `A' clash at Bulawayo, a match where Lee went for 63 in his ten overs. All this would change soon, as Lee bowled like `wind'.

Poor Kiwis, they were simply swept away by the gale force. Chasing 208 in a crucial clash at Port Elizabeth, New Zealand, considering the depth in its line-up, was still in the hunt at 102 for five.

Lee, brought back for another fling by Ponting, prised out the in-form Kiwi captain Stephen Fleming and then let loose some very special reverse swinging toe crushers as New Zealand collapsed to 112 all out, Lee ending with five for 45. This was massacre in daylight.

In the last four duel, again at Port Elizabeth, Australia needed early breakthroughs — the defending champion had been restricted to 212 and Sri Lanka had eight specialist batsmen in the line-up. And Lee fired at the beginning, leaving Atapattu shell-shocked, and then making light of Hashan Tillekeratne and Avishka Gunawardene. He operated quite brilliantly during the final at the Wanderers and the championship did end in a blaze of glory for him and his mates.

The Aussie surely was the `impact' bowler in Southern Africa. Hungry as a wolf, Brett Lee was on fire in World Cup 2003.

S. DINAKAR