Lee will miss Ashes opener

Boost for English hopes as Australia's most experienced bowler suffers rib injury

Australia's cunning plans to retain the Ashes were dealt an unkind blow last night. Veteran fast bowler Brett Lee will miss the first Test which starts tomorrow in Cardiff and almost certainly the second next week at Lord's with a rib injury.

Lee was central to the Australia's strategy to undermine England's batting with reverse swing, of which he has become a recent master, and his absence means they must enter the match with an attack wholly bereft of Test experience in England.

Of the four bowlers likely to start, only one, Stuart Clark has played in an Ashes Test before. If it does not quite place the tourists in disarray it leaves them dangerously short of experience in alien conditions and with the Duke ball which is used in English Test matches.

It is an especially cruel blow to Lee, who has taken 310 wickets, fewer than only three compatriots, in 76 Test matches. He had to fight his way back to fitness after ankle surgery to be considered for selection and many pundits felt that he was in decline.

Australia's selectors recognised that they had little choice but to pick him given the raw nature of the rest of their attack and Lee demonstrated last week in Worcester that he could still be a significant force. He took six England Lions wickets in the first innings and another in the second with late, lethal reverse swing. Since it was the prime weapon in England's 2005 victory it settled once and all how the Australians would tackle England's batsmen. The tourists freely admitted that if the ball did not swing conventionally they would try to scuff one side up on the pitch to try to produce unconventional, known as reverse swing, more quickly.

Lee indeed was reversing it as early as the 14th over at Worcester on Saturday evening. But it was sometime around then that he began to feel a twinge in his rib and by yesterday morning it was clear he was in trouble and was sent to a London hospital for scans. By the evening he was officially ruled out because of a small strain in one of his abdominal muscles, the internal oblique muscle.

Alex Kountouris, Australia's physiotherapist, said: "It is not as bad as it could have been, so we are going to monitor it over the next couple of weeks. He is not out of the Lord's Test match but the chances are slim."

Lee, one of the boldest of competitors whose image went round the world when he was consoled by Andrew Flintoff after Australia's nerve-racking two-run defeat at Edgbaston in 2005, was philosophical.

"This is only a small obstacle put in front of me," he said. "If it was my ankle and something structural I would be a lot more concerned. Being a fast bowler, injuries are the nature of the beast and I will be working hard to look to bowl again around the two-week mark and reassess after that.

"When I first felt stiffness in my side, I thought it might have been getting back into the swing of things. I was going pretty much as hard as I could in that match and I suppose I had to prove to myself that I could still do it. In 16 years it is only the second time I have pulled a muscle in my body, which is pretty unbelievable for a fast bowler."

It is not quite like the great Glenn McGrath stepping on a ball and injuring his ankle minutes before the start of the Edgbaston Test in 2005 but it may give England a similar fillip so close to the action. Like everybody else they saw what Lee was doing at Worcester last week and it must have concerned them, whatever they say about wishing to play the best.

England will not make the mistake of being excessively confident. Clark is a menacing bowler, the left-arm fast man Mitchell Johnson gains reverse swing away from the right hander and Peter Siddle is a muscular right arm. But make no mistake: this is not what Australia wanted.

Key man: Brett Lee's record

*Brett Lee may have an indifferent overall record against England – he averages 40 with the ball compared to a career mark of 30 – but he was a key figure for Australia in the last two Ashes, taking 40 wickets in 10 Tests. In 2005 he took 20 wickets in England as well as famously nearly winning the Edgbaston Test with the bat. In 2006/7 he took another 20 wickets in five Tests. He also took seven wickets against the England Lions last week.

Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor