Akhtar pays tribute to pace rival Brett Lee

Pakistan express fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar Saturday paid tribute to pace rival Brett Lee who has announced his retirement from international cricket, saying the Australian was a fierce competitor.

The 35-year-old Lee said Friday he was quitting, ending a glorious career that was marred by injury problems.

Lee sent down the second-fastest delivery on record at 99.9 miles per hour (160.8 kph) at Napier in New Zealand, only surpassed by Akhtar who hit the 100-mile barrier on two occasions, first in 2002 and then in 2003.

"Lee was a fierce competitor and became an identity for express bowling with his passion and love for the game and for fast bowling," Akhtar, who retired last year after a career plagued by injury and controversy, told AFP.

Akhtar said Lee's retirement was a sad day for the game.

"Friday was a sad day for international cricket because a bowler with express pace has retired, someone who was loved by the fans around the world, and he will be missed," said Akhtar.

"Lee gave everything to cricket and was a true Australian: fierce and battle-hardened. He was always willing to bowl and willing to bowl fast and like all the fast bowlers had injuries, which is part and parcel of fast bowling."

Akhtar said cricket would be less attractive with the absence of express pace.

"Cricket had very few express pace bowlers and now after the retirement of Lee we don't have any bowler who can bowl 99 mph and the terror on the batsmen will be less," said Akhtar.

Akhtar, 36, remembered his good times with Lee.

"I had very good friendship with Lee and spent some good days with him in Sydney and he was always warm and cordial whenever we met, so I wish him all the best in his future," said Akhtar.

Lee retired from Tests in February 2010 as Australia's fourth-highest Test wicket-taker but played on in one-day and Twenty20 cricket up until Friday's announcement.

He took 310 Test wickets at 30.81 from 76 matches and 380 one-day international wickets at 23.36 from 221 matches.

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