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Last Updated: Monday, 9 April 2007, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Paceman Tait's world-class form
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport, Antigua

Shaun Tait
Tait has filled the strike bowling role perfectly in the West Indies

Brett Lee's absence has barely been felt by Australia during their irresistible progress towards a possible third straight World Cup triumph.

One of the reasons for that is Shaun Tait's rapid progress towards becoming a world-class pace bowler.

Hastened into the Test team at the age of 22 against England in 2005, the South Australian caught the eye with his ability to reverse-swing the ball at speeds well in excess of 90mph.

But there was also a lack of control, attributed to inexperience and his sling-arm action. For every peach of a delivery there were at least two long-hops or wide half-volleys.

Shoulder and back problems robbed him of the chance to improve his accuracy for the rest of 2005 and most of 2006.

When he finally returned to action in domestic cricket, he showed he had lost none of his zip, and had added more consistency.

England felt the full force of it in their opening tour game in Australia, when he took 3-21 in eight overs for a Prime Minister's XI to help inflict a heavy one-day defeat.

Some of the problems remained, however, as expensive spells in the Commonwealth Bank Series and Chappell-Hadlee Trophy earlier this year illustrated.

Shaun's been very effective for us bowling in the middle of the innings through the powerplays

Australia's Ricky Ponting

The selectors kept faith with him for the World Cup ahead of the steadier Stuart Clark, who would later be brought into the squad when Lee was ruled out through injury.

And the youngster has repaid that confidence with a series of impressive displays in the Caribbean, the latest of which saw him claim 3-41 to earn the man of the match award in the Super 8 win over England.

His three spells combined velocity, swing and, most importantly, accuracy.

"Our bowling in the latter stages was first-class, led by Shaun," skipper Ricky Ponting said.

"He's taken wickets in every game he's played for us.

"It's great to see younger guys working hard on their games and getting results out of it.

"Shaun did a terrific job for us, getting two early breakthroughs and he's been very effective for us bowling in the middle of the innings through the powerplays."

The progress made by Tait has led to excitement among the Aussie fans and media about the prospect of a pairing with Lee in Test and one-day cricket.

Shaun Tait
Hurling one down for South Australia back in February 2003

Ponting is keen to see that happen too, but he believes it will not be just about blasting teams out.

"Brett's probably got away from the out-and-out strike bowler he was always labelled," he explained.

"Tait is that for us at the moment but the more he plays the more he'll learn about bowling in different conditions and at different times in the game.

"Brett is a bit more advanced in that now he understands his game very well.

"Sure he takes his wickets at the top of the innings but he's not going for anywhere near as many runs as he once did.

"That was one thing that plagued him early in his career, having a run rate of around six an over, but he's dragged that back a lot the last couple of years."

Batsmen around the world were looking forward to veteran Aussie paceman Glenn McGrath's retirement at the end of the World Cup.

But with Tait beginning to harness his undoubted talent, the prospect of more long-term misery being inflicted on them is growing likelier with his every performance.

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