Nielsen thrilled with Tait's ODI return
Australia's coach Tim Nielsen believes the series loss in England has provided a silver lining, with the unexpected return of Shaun Tait to the ODI setup a promising sign for the future. Tait, who hadn't played an ODI since February 2009, was a late inclusion in the squad and has picked up four wickets in his two games, adding speed and shock value to an attack that has performed well under pressure.
Tait decided two years ago that his body was better off if he avoided first-class cricket and concentrated on the shorter formats, where he has been hovering in the high 150kph region. While Tait has been economical and collected wickets, one of the best signs for Australia is that his body is so far standing up to 50-over cricket.
"It's one of the real bonuses for us out of this series that he's been able to get back in the squad and play so well," Nielsen said ahead of the final ODI at Lord's. "The only thing that I find a bit difficult with [not playing first-class cricket] is the fact that unless the schedule works out really well, he can have quite big gaps between games and not get the volume of bowling that keeps him going.
"So, while he's fresh, he needs to find ways of training harder and training well between games, whereas the four-day games used to maintain his regular contact with competitive games. He's finding a pretty happy medium at the moment with the amount of work he does. His body is responding well to that. He's getting fitter and maturing as a player as well. He's feeling better about himself, he's feeling comfortable in his world, his body's not hurting every time he bowls."
Tait picked up the important wicket of Andrew Strauss at The Oval on Wednesday but the star of the attack was Ryan Harris, who finished with 5 for 32 in Australia's first win of the series. It was the third time in his short 16-game career that Harris has taken a five-wicket haul, and it continued the trend of the bowlers sharing the workload.
Doug Bollinger's 3 for 20 at Old Trafford nearly set up a miraculous win, Steven Smith has snared five victims in the series and Harris was also the most impressive in the first game in Southampton. Nielsen was pleased with the progress shown in such a short space of time from a bowling group that entered the tour with limited international experience.
"This is the first time this complete bowling attack has bowled in England, so they're getting better and better as they go on," he said. "We realise they were very short on experience over here. We've seen them improve their length, improve their lines and learn about the conditions we're playing on over here, slower wickets that don't bounce as much as at home."
Although the side has been without its leader Mitchell Johnson during the one-day series due to his elbow infection, he has joined the group and is set for a comeback during the two Twenty20s against Pakistan next week. Johnson has been bowling in the nets this week but Australia won't be tempted to give him a run in Saturday's final ODI.
"The reason for getting him here was to ensure we had him outside and bowling and going as well as we could leading into the Test matches," Nielsen said. "We were concerned if he stayed in Perth and it happened to be wet and cold he wouldn't get the bowling outside. He's been great with our quicks and he'll be ready to go for the Twenty20s."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo