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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Tait a raw talent
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport at Trent Bridge

Australian pace bowler Shaun Tait
Something is guaranteed to happen when Shaun Tait takes the ball for the first time in a Test for Australia - it is just a question of what.

His exploits so far include 18 wicketless overs dispatched for 176 runs during a two-match stint in county cricket with Durham last year.

He bounced back with a South Australia record 65 wickets, at an average of 20, during the last Australian summer, earning a tour call-up.

And then there is the headcount so far on this trip, increased to three when Justin Langer was hit in the nets on Tuesday, provoking a tense stand-off.

The 22-year-old had already bloodied Northamptonshire batsmen Tim Roberts and Ben Phillips over the weekend.

Whichever version of Tait turns up at Trent Bridge, England are guaranteed something different.

"Watching Shaun Tait in the nets, I don't think many people like facing him," said star spinner Shane Warne.

"You've got an exciting 22-year-old kid who is bursting at the seams and hitting blokes on the head left, right and centre."

Justin Langer is hit in the nets by team-mate Shaun Tait
Langer samples Tait's pace in the nets

Legendary Aussie fast bowler Dennis Lillee is a strong supporter of Tait, saying: "He has all the resources in his armoury to stick the ball right up the noses of the England batsmen."

With a slingy action, express speed and the ability to make batsmen duck and jump, he reminds many of Lillee's maverick hunting partner Jeff Thomson.

England skipper Michael Vaughan compared him to Fidel Edwards, who was one of West Indies most successful bowlers in England last summer.

Former Aussie bowler Geoff Lawson said: "He's a very big, strong guy and looks a bit like James Anderson when he's bowling because he doesn't look where he's going.

"He swings the new ball away from the right-hander with an unorthodox action and gets reverse swing into them with the old ball."

In the down-to-earth style of his Aussie pace predecessors, Tait himself said: "I let myself go and let them have it.

"I'm not a line-and-length type bowler. A lot of aggression goes into my bowling and I use my natural ability to make things happen.

"People say I'm similar to Jeff Thomson but he was before my time so I never really saw him bowl."

Asked whether he bowls at more than 90mph, Tait said he was unsure.

Next to him skipper Ricky Ponting nodded with a grin and said: "Ask Justin."

He explained: "I've had to cope with him a few times during the summer in the nets.

Australian pace bowler Shaun Tait
Tait's action has been compared to Jeff Thomson's

"It's just the way he approaches his bowling - he runs in and tries to bowl as fast as he can at every opportunity."

Ponting expects Glenn McGrath, if fit, and Brett Lee to continue as the opening pair, although Tait is an "extra option", likely to bowl in short, hostile bursts.

With the pressure on them to fix an area of glaring weakness, Australia's selectors have been denied their usual luxury of long-term planning.

But Lee - who will be the only fast bowler to have played in all four Tests - is the only member of what was the first-choice line-up at the start of the tour under the age of 30.

Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz have both been below par so far, strengthening further Tait's case.

Along with players like batsmen Michael Clarke, who hit 91 in the first Test at Lord's, the 6ft 4in bowler represents a new generation of Australian strength.

"We just tried to pick the best team we can for this game," said Ponting.

"But [Tait is] a young bloke that is hopefully going to be around the team for a long time - everything he's shown would indicate that.

"It's an exciting time for him but it's an exciting time for the team as well to have these younger players coming into the team."

But for circumstances, Australia may have waited longer to make Tait their 329th cap.

Now, though, they need a gamble to pay off.




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