Like Andrew Flintoff, Brett Lee’s had to jack in proper cricket because his body’s had it. Fast bowling’s a mug’s game, but anyone who’s seen our Too Cool mug or our robot mug knows that we love mugs.
In many ways, Brett Lee was the perfect Australian fast bowler. He was a proper, 96mph, charge-to-the-crease, rip-your-shoulder-out-of-its-socket fast bowler who was stunning to watch, yet when he played England he barely took any wickets. Perfect.
Quick bit of stats – skip this if you want
He took more Test wickets against England than against anyone else bar the Windies, but he took them at an average of 40, which is toss. In England, he averaged 45 and went at over four an over. England fans could watch his electric bowling and yet be comforted by the fact that their side were cracking on at pace.
How fast was Brett Lee?
Yeah, past tense. He might still be available for one-day internationals and Twenty20s, but when you stop playing Tests you’ve already got one foot in a slipper and you’re reaching for the RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening.
Brett Lee was proper fast. He generally bowled around 94mph/150kph and the key part is that he maintained this. He wasn’t a bowler who put in the odd surprisingly quick ball. He wasn’t a bowler who got over 90mph on a good day. He pounded in and on a good day he was heading up towards 100mph. He crossed that line where batsmen go from worrying whether they can react quickly enough to outright shitting themselves.
10/10 for effort
We can’t imagine how much it must have hurt. Not just when he was bowling, but when he was 32 and trying to come back and bowl as quickly as he ever did. Fast bowlers are cussed bastards.
That cussedness showed in his batting as well. It’s easy to overlook, but he played as big a part as anyone in the creation of the greatest passage of cricket that we can remember – the climax to the 2005 Edgbaston Ashes Test. In getting tenderised like cheap meat by Andrew Flintoff, he showed that he could get as good as he gave, but nothing would sway him from his impossible task. It was as impressive an innings as we’ve ever seen; the mental fortitude better highlighted by his limitations as a batsman.
Whatever the result of that match – no matter how England supporters fetishise that climactic moment – that morning showed why Test match cricket is the greatest sport on earth and we have to thank Brett Lee for that.