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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Tait the real deal for Australia
By Oliver Brett

Shaun Tait is coming off a tremendous season for South Australia
Shaun Tait is coming off a brilliant season for South Australia

While Australia's Ashes squad contains no major surprises, by far the most fascinating inclusion is Shaun Tait.

This uncapped 22-year-old express paceman was the leading wicket-taker in Australia's past domestic first-class season, with 65 victims.

He broke a 40-year record in one season for a South Australian, with celebrated leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett's mark finally overhauled.

And the fact he did it in a season when the Redbacks generally struggled is even more remarkable.

But the really extraordinary factor is that Tait had suffered a truly horrendous time playing for Durham at the end of the 2004 season.

In two Championship games, he bowled 18 wicketless overs that were caned for 176 runs.

Former Aussie paceman Geoff Lawson describes Tait's performance for Durham as an aberration.

He told BBC Sport: "You can dismiss that as one of those things that happened because something was wrong.

"Maybe it was a case of jet-lag or it was a bit chilly up there. He certainly doesn't do that these days.

"In Australia it's his consistency which has got him on the tour.

"He bowls at 90mph and a bit quicker. 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.

Geoff Lawson
It must have been a pretty close call between Bracken and Tait
Geoff Lawson

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

"He's an out-and-out wicket-taker with the new ball and the old ball. All in all, he is quite a handful."

Tait saw off competition in the shape of left-arm New South Wales quick Nathan Bracken and the all-rounder Shane Watson.

Lawson has more sympathy with the former.

He said: "Watson struggles to find his place in international cricket whereas on another Ashes tour Bracken would have got a game.

"It must have been a pretty close call between Bracken and Tait.

"Bracken has also had a wonderful season. He took 7-4 against South Australia in Sydney and bowled fantastically well in the Pura Cup final [taking eight wickets]."

Nathan Bracken
Tait's selection is unfortunate for Nathan Bracken, who misses out

But with the Gillespie-McGrath-Kasprowicz triumvirate currently so successful, Brett Lee cannot even get a Test at present, let alone Tait or Bracken.

The position of Stuart MacGill as the second spinner on tour is another talking-point.

Was this not the time to introduce the young finger-spinner Dan Cullen?

Lawson defends the selectors on this score.

"We haven't had any off-spinners for a while and Cullen certainly turns it.

Lehmann to retire?

"But MacGill has been a match-winner for New South Wales this year and is bowling probably the best I've seen him bowl."

Finally, Darren Lehmann is neither in the Test squad nor the one-day squad.

Lawson's verdict? "He has been a terrific servant for Australia but the feeling was they would go for a younger player.

"He may well retire now."

But if the door has now closed for South Australia's venerable captain, perhaps it has opened for the state's brightest young star.



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