Paceman Brett Lee staked a massive claim to be part of the Australian side for the first Test match in defence of the Ashes with a devastating spell against England Lions here yesterday.
Lions batsman Stephen Moore had threatened to dominate the second day with a century on his home ground during an opening stand of 172 with Joe Denly in reply to the tourists’ first-innings total of 358.
But Lee altered the complexion of the match with a five-wicket burst – including Moore for 120 – as he bowled with great accuracy and sustained hostility.
The 31-year-old has not played a Test since facing South Africa in Melbourne in December after undergoing ankle surgery and Mitchell Johnson has effectively replaced him as Australia’s number one strike bowler.
But he showed he can still be a force to be reckoned with as Denly, Ian Bell, Vikram Solanki, Moore and Eoin Morgan were dismissed in a deadly seven-over spell. His impact could have been even greater as Moore was fortunate to survive an lbw appeal before he had scored to the first delivery of Lee’s new-ball spell. Television replays suggested that the delivery struck Moore’s pad in front of the stumps before it hit the inside edge of his bat.
But in contrast the remainder of the Australians’ attack including Johnson laboured to make any sort of impression on an unresponsive and slow pitch.
Moore also had another escape on 41 when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spilled a chance after he had edged a delivery from Clark.
In between, the Worcestershire batsman played a series of fine strokes in moving to three figures off 147 balls with 14 fours and two sixes. It was his first century since the County Championship match with Middlesex at Kidderminster last September.
Australian off-spin bowler Nathan Hauritz again failed to impress, with Moore and Denly lofting him for six, and it needed the return of Lee to break the opening stand and bring the tourists back into the match.
Denly (66) was bowled by a delivery which reverse swung and Lions skipper Bell was trapped lbw for a first-ball duck.
Solanki survived the hat-trick ball but scored only eight being being bowled off his pads by Lee.
Moore’s fine innings came to an end when he tried to pull Lee and was caught off a top edge by Haddin running back to partially make amends for his earlier error. In total Moore had faced 176 balls and struck 15 fours and two sixes.
Lee completed his nap hand when Morgan (four) became his second lbw success and at that juncture the Lions had lost five wickets for 37 runs in 12 overs.
But Worcestershire wicketkeeper Steven Davies and Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid redressed the balance with a sixth-wicket stand of 86. Davies scored 53, with seven fours, before he edged part-time spinner Marcus North to slip but Rashid finished unbeaten on 36 out of 302 for six off 81 overs.