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Page last updated at 21:46 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 22:46 UK

Injured Lee to miss Ashes opener

First Ashes Test, Cardiff: England v Australia
Date: 8-12 July
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave, Red Button and BBC Sport website, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles. Live on Sky Sports

Brett Lee at the news conference to announce his absence from the first Ashes Test
Lee had only just returned after foot and ankle surgery

Australia have suffered a huge blow ahead of the start of the Ashes series against England after paceman Brett Lee was ruled out of the first Test.

Lee, one of the survivors of Australia's 2005 Ashes defeat, reported soreness in his left side during the recent tour game against England Lions.

And scans on Monday revealed he has a tear to his rib muscle and will definitely miss the Cardiff opener.

Furthermore, Lee has only a "slim" hope of making the second Test at Lord's.

The second Ashes Test at Lord's begins on 16 July, leaving him little time to recover from his latest injury.

"I'm very disappointed," said Lee, as he broke the news alongside Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris on Monday evening.

"Being a fast bowler injuries do happen sometimes, but I'll be working really hard over the next two weeks to try to get back playing as quickly as possible. If the second Test is not an option, then maybe the third.

Australia still strong without Lee - Pietersen

"I'm bowling pain-free on my ankle for the first time in a long time and that's exciting. Yes I'm frustrated and disappointed, of course I am, but the bright side is that it is not connected to my old injuries."

News of the injury first broke on Monday morning when Lee was forced to miss the training to undergo scans on the problem, and his absence could be a huge setback for Australia following his impressive display in the warm-up match against the Lions.

He took seven wickets for 114 in the drawn tour game at New Road, putting him in pole position to lead the Aussie attack against England alongside the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle.

But, having last played a Test against South Africa in December because of surgery on foot and ankle problems, injury has again struck the fast bowler, who has 310 wickets in 76 Test appearances.

"Brett's obviously worked very hard especially over the last 12 months to try and get right for this series," said Australian vice captain Michael Clarke before confirmation of Lee's absence was announced.

"I think right now we need to wait and see what the result is of his scan but I know he will be very keen and hoping that the scan comes up clear."

Silent Bob

Australia will now have to decide between picking off-form spinner Nathan Hauritz or employing a seam-only attack with Ben Hilfenhaus a potential like-for-like replacement.

England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who is just returning to full fitness after an Achilles injury, sympathised with the Australian in an earlier press conference.

"It's sad for him if it's true. He's a fantastic competitor and an amazing bowler," said Pietersen.

"We've all seen how he's bowled in the last couple of games. He's a huge, huge, huge player for Australia.

"There's his experience in the dressing room and also the intimidation he has on batsmen around the world, because he's the fastest bowler in the world.

"He's got that intimidation factor, so it's a huge loss if he doesn't play. But Australia are the world champions and favourites, so we know we've got a fierce competition coming up.

"Whether Brett plays or not we know the Australian team is going to be strong."

Australia legend Shane Warne, watching an Ashes series from the sidelines rather than playing his usual central role, said Lee's absence left a major hole for the tourists to fill.

"It's a big blow for Australia. He was in my starting XI. Him and Mitchell Johnson with the new ball was quite exciting," said Warne.

"At 90mph-plus, with both swinging the ball, it was an exciting prospect for Australia.

"Brett had waited a long time to get back after being injured. But Australia are lucky because they have Stuart Clarke and Ben Hilfenhaus.

"They have good back-up but it's a shame because Brett was starting to find some form."

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see also
Pietersen wary of Aussie threat
06 Jul 09 |  England
The Ashes: head-to-head
04 Jul 09 |  Cricket
England gear up for the Ashes
04 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Hauritz backed by coach Nielsen
05 Jul 09 |  Australia
Justin Langer column
06 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Harmison misses out on Test squad
05 Jul 09 |  England
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England

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