Australia ready to gamble on Lee's fitness

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The Independent Online

Australia are still optimistic that Brett Lee will be fit for the third Test at Old Trafford starting tomorrow, despite the fast bowler spending a second night in hospital with a knee infection. Lee was taken to a Birmingham hospital on Monday after complaining of soreness and swelling around the joint.

The Australian spearhead scratched his left knee while diving for a ball in the first Test at Lord's and during the rigours of the second Test at Edgbaston it became infected. On his arrival at hospital the 28-year-old was put on an intravenous drip and administered antibiotics.

Lee remains doubtful for Manchester but the treatment he is receiving makes his condition sound much worse than it actually is. The probable absence of Glenn McGrath, who twisted his right ankle during Australia's preparations for the second Test, means that the tourists will do everything they can to get Lee fit for tomorrow. And they believe that he is better off spending another night under supervision in a hospital bed than in the team hotel in Manchester.

"Brett was seen by doctors this morning and they are happy with the progress of the treatment that has been administered so far," said Errol Alcott, the Australian physiotherapist. "The problem areas around the left knee appear to have improved. However, the doctors are keen for him to remain in hospital overnight. We are hopeful he will be discharged at some stage on Wednesday morning before travelling to Manchester where his fitness will be further assessed ahead of the third Test."

Australia are due to practise at 2pm today and the net area at Old Trafford is sure to be a congested place while the fitness of Lee and McGrath is assessed.

The injuries to Australia's opening bowlers have caused the tourists to add Stuart Clark to their 16-man squad. Clark, a fast bowler in the McGrath mould, has been playing county cricket for Middlesex, but he left London and dashed up the M1 and M6 as soon as he was told that his services were required in Manchester. Clark took 40 wickets at an average of 25.97 for New South Wales in the Australian domestic Pura Cup last winter and he bowled well in his two outings with Middlesex, taking 5 for 61 in the county championship match against Warwickshire at Lord's last week.

"We consider Stuart to be a similar kind of bowler to Glenn McGrath," said Trevor Hohns, Australia's chairman of selectors. "He's already in England and showing some good form so we have selected him to provide cover for the current injuries."

Clark is unlikely to play at Old Trafford, even if Lee and McGrath miss the match. If this were to happen the final place in the Australian side would go to Shaun Tait or Stuart MacGill.

In another era - an era that did not coincide with Shane Warne - MacGill would have played 80 Test matches and taken more than 400 wickets by now. Instead the leg-spinner has taken 160 wickets in 33 Test appearances, and 39 in six matches against England. The pitch at Old Trafford could have something in it for both MacGill and Tait, a fast bowler from South Australia.

England's Simon Jones has promised to control his aggressive nature after he was fined 20 per cent of his match fee during the Edgbaston Test. The fast bowler was reprimanded after giving Australia's Matthew Hayden a send-off after dismissing him on Saturday.

It is not the first time that Jones has been fined for such behaviour. He was docked 50 per cent of his match fee for similar antics towards Ramnaresh Sarwan during the tour of the West Indies last year.

"Things happen in the heat of the moment and sometimes you can't control what you are doing," Jones said. "Someone else takes over and it's a great feeling, but you may look back on it and think, 'What was I doing'. In future I'm going to have to learn to maybe calm myself down a bit."