This replacement means business

BRAD WILLIAMS crossed a milestone and achieved a career-best in his international career, that is very much in a nascent stage, for Australia. The Western Australian, who will turn 29 a week after the TVS Cup final at the Eden Gardens, completed 100 overs in his 11th one-day international, took his first five-wicket haul and straightaway won his second `Man of the Match' award. The newest star on the fast lane will get his chances at home this summer when India travel to Australia for four Tests and the VB Series.

His victims in Pune were Chris Nevin, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan and Chris Harris. Together the five faced only 27 balls. Styris fell to the first ball he faced. Yet, for all his showpiece bowling in his first spell, Williams was not able to maintain line and length before he drew first blood. He gave away 13 wides, just like Andy Bichel. But the moment he was able to find his rhythm and allow the grassy surface to do the tricks, he appeared the master of his trade.

The important thing after he won the appeal from umpire David Shepherd for leg before against Chris Nevin was that he was able to play on the nerves of the other batsmen, except perhaps captain Stephen Fleming. His partner, Nathan Bracken, did not get a wicket, but bowled steadily to concede just 39 runs off his 10 overs.

Returning for his second spell, Williams dismissed Chris Harris for his fifth wicket that marked his improvement upon his four for 22 at Faridabad. Later, when Jacob Oram and Brendan McCullum threw their bat around, Williams too went for a few runs. Seldom does a team recover well from being 68 for five, but New Zealand managed to do so through one of its allrounders and the wicketkeeper

The big-made Williams, who finished with 5 for 53, might not have been on the India tour at all. He has been a replacement for Glenn McGrath on a few occasions. He went to the West Indies in April and returned home without playing a Test. This time the Australian selectors picked him after Jason Gillespie was ruled out for the tour.

So Williams has been lucky. Though he has been punished by the Indian batsmen, he has been quite successful against the Kiwis. Once, he was supposed to be quicker than Brett Lee. On occasions, he has also shown this in the tri-series. He runs in aggressively to start with and made good use of the conditions at Faridabad and Pune to capture nine wickets. He could turn out to be even more dangerous on Australian pitches that offer bounce as a first source of encouragement to fast bowlers.

Williams will make way for bowlers like McGrath, Gillespie and Lee once they are declared fit. But at the moment the chances appear bright for him to be awarded his second Test cap, this time against India.