BIRMINGHAM // Australia bowler Brett Lee has lost his battle to be fit for the third Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston starting tomorrow. Lee had a side strain that kept him out of the opening two games at Cardiff and Lord's and the vice-captain Michael Clarke confirmed that the paceman has not recovered sufficiently in time.
Clarke said yesterday: "I don't think that Brett is going to be right. He only bowled off three or four steps today in the nets. "He is doing plenty of fitness work and is working very hard to get himself right. I am not sure exactly how far away he is but I think he is out of contention for Thursday." Clarke was pleasantly surprised when he had his first view of the Edgbaston wicket as Australia look to bounce back from their defeat at Lord's.
He said: "The wicket looks better than we expected. It is quite dry. I would imagine that spin will play a part in this game. "I don't think the forecast is great for the rest of the week and I am sure conditions will come into the equation when selecting the side. We know we need to improve with bat and ball and perform at the highest level." Ian Bell also was determined to improve his record with the bat, especially against the Australians, when he takes up Kevin Pietersen's place in the side. Bell has made six half-centuries in 10 Ashes clashes but has recorded more single-figure scores and his average of 25.10 per innings reflects the fact he has often struggled to get on top of the Australia bowlers.
With former captain Pietersen ruled out, the Warwickshire batsman knew this was the perfect occasion for him to stand up and be counted at his home ground as England will guard their 1-0 lead with all their might. Bell said: "I look back at my record against the Australians as probably the one record I need to sort out in my career. "I'm well aware of that, and I'm looking forward to putting that right. This is a big game. My job is to go out and score runs and that's what I'll be looking to do, no differently to how I've played Test cricket in the past."
Despite their problems with the form of Mitchell Johnson and opening batsman Phillip Hughes, Bell anticipates a strong fight back from Australia. "They are a world-class side and when they go 1-0 down they'll come back even harder at you," he said. "You're not going to win an Ashes series by winning one Test match. You have to put in performances on the bounce." * PA Sport