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Pace: Weapon of destruction

Fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait shine for defending champs Australia in unfavourable conditions. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 23, 2011 00:33 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The helmet protects your head but ask the Zimbabweans if you want to know what kind of psychological damage it does to get hit on it.

The Australian fast bowlers caused that and more on Monday to show that, amid all the talk on spin being the principal weapon in this World Cup, there is no substitute for sheer pace if bowled with control. Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson together worked up an average speed of over 140kmph in an early indication of where Australia's strength lies.

"If these three are up and running, I'm not worried about what conditions we are playing in, or who the opposition are. It can be quite intimidating for any team facing them," said skipper Ricky Ponting after the game.

Mitch strikes it rich
It wasn't an ideal start by Lee and Tait, who got the ball to whiz past the batsmen more than making them play, but Johnson was on the coin from the first ball. Bowling a tight line without offering width, and hitting the deck hard, he also extracted fearsome bounce. "I don't remember him bowling any better for us in one-day games," said Ponting.

Tait became more accurate after his first spell and was unlucky to see the batsmen just about managing to get the bat down to keep his yorkers from crashing on to the stumps. This delivery can cause serious damage, irrespective of the nature of the pitch. Like in 2007, Tait was used in short bursts and Ponting said that it might remain the ploy now too.

Low Lee
Lee was off colour but there were enough hints of what he can do when he made the batsmen play. Even on an average day, he returned an acceptable economy rate of just over four. It wasn't as if he was bowling loose deliveries, but just that the line wasn't straight enough.

"It's great to have the variety these three can bring to the team," said Ponting. "Bowling consistently at over 140k and breaking partnerships, they are a great asset to have. Tait is coming back to match fitness and it was great to have nine overs out of him."