Mohali, Oct.21 : Australian pace bowler Brett Lee on Tuesday rubbished Indian and Australian media reports of him having a spat with his skipper Ricky Ponting during the course of the fourth day's play in the second Test being played between Australia and India here.
When cricket commentator Mark Nicholas asked Lee to confirm or deny the report that he had had an angry exchange with Ponting over why he was being under bowled during the Indian second innings, Lee candidly replied that it was not true, and added that he was only discussing with Ponting about the over rate that was falling behind. He said that during his conversation with Ponting it was decided to bring on leg spinner Cameron White to take care of the over rate, as not doing so at that stage, would have invited penalties on the Australian team from the match referee.
Lee also said ahead of the fifth day's play that Australia faced a tough challenge in batting out the day to avoid defeat. He said that each player would be focused on trying to "save the game". At the time of the filing of this report, Australia were heading for almost certain defeat, having lost three more wickets this morning to the five they had lost on the fourth day, to be left struggling at 181 for eight. Fast bowler Michael Johnson was batting on 22 and vice-captain Michael Clarke was on 64.
Indian fast bowler Zaheer Khan struck thrice this morning, grabbing the wickets of wicket keeper Brad Haddin, leg spinner Cameron White and fast bowler Brett Lee. Khan has so far taken three for 65, while Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh have taken two for 42 and three for 29 respectively.
Earlier, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lee and Ponting had a heated conversation 20 minutes before lunch on the fourth day when the Australian captain opted to bowl White instead of the fast-bowling spearhead. While the Indian batsman were piling on the runs Shane Watson, White, Peter Siddle, Johnson and part-time medium pacer Mike Hussey were all preferred ahead of Lee.
The Australian quoted team coach Tim Nielsen as defending Ponting's stunning decision not to bowl Lee in the crucial morning session on day four of the second Test.
"We decided we wanted to take the pace off the ball initially. We don't see Michael Hussey bowl eight overs or nine overs in an innings very often either. We thought that wasn't a bad way to go for us. We believe both Ganguly and Dhoni enjoy the ball coming on to the bat and when they do their hitting square of the wicket is very hard to defend. Maybe Huss bowled the overs Brett would have bowled," Nielsen said.
Nielsen denied Ponting's decision was based on Lee's woeful return of just four wickets in two Tests, declaring he wasn't "going to point the finger" at anyone.
"I think the difference between our bowling and theirs is they have been able to bowl a lot of consistent overs and really build up some pressure on the scoreboard and in the middle on our batsmen."
According to The Age, it was unclear why Shane Watson, Cameron White, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and part-time medium pacer Mike Hussey were used ahead of Australia's fourth most-successful Test bowler.
When Ponting turned to White for his second spell of the morning, Lee appeared to ask Ponting why he was not bowling, and according to the paper, a heated conversation ensued.
In the past two years the 31-year-old has graduated to be the undisputed leader of the Australian attack, but he began the fourth day here with three wickets for the series at a cost of 66 runs each. He added the wicket of Sourav Ganguly yesterday but still appeared to be bothered by the split webbing on his bowling hand, for which he received two stitches on the first day of the Test.
Lee acknowledged after the Bangalore series-opener that the fast bowlers needed to make better use of the new ball, but it has been their inability to reverse-swing the old one as early and as dangerously as the Indian quicks that has caused the most consternation here.