Linking up with the Australian team was quite weird. I was like a fan who’d won a competition; as most Aussie people did, I knew all the players, but I actually hadn’t met them all. I was lucky that there was a strong NSW flavour - the Waughs, Glenn McGrath, and Michael Slater - that helped me feel more comfortable.
I was in a battle with ‘Kasper’ (Michael Kasprowicz) for the third fast bowling spot behind ‘Pidgey’ (Glenn McGrath) and ‘Flem’ (Damien Fleming). The opening had come after selectors had dropped Scott Muller. I didn’t expect to play because Kasper had experience on his side; he also deserved it because he’d worked hard to get back in after playing his last Test a year earlier.
I came to know him as one of the truly good blokes in world cricket, but this didn’t mean we didn’t go for each other’s throats in the final net session before the XI was chosen. We both went flat out for the entire time on practice wickets that had heaps of juice in them. I hit Justin Langer on the foot and ‘sniffed up’ Ricky Ponting off a full run; there was no holding back in a ball for ball duel.
At the end of practice ‘Tugga’ (Steve Waugh) told me the news I had expected but didn’t want to hear: I’d missed out. I was obviously disappointed, but also encouraged by Tugga who said if I kept bowling the same way I’d get my chance before long.
Being 12th man at the WACA Test was actually a blessing because it allowed me to get the feel of being part of an Australian Test team without the pressure of having to perform. The match only lasted three days - Australia won by an innings and 20 runs to clean sweep the series - but that was more than enough time for me to take away some incredible memories.
Image: Australian captain Steve Waugh offers a few words of encouragement to Brett Lee