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England v Australia, 4th Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day

Tait comes of age

The Australian View by Peter English

August 25, 2005

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Shaun Tait struck two blows for Australia on his Test debut © Getty Images
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Australia's new-look attack relied on its freshest face for a telling burst of energy. Shaun Tait wasn't meant to play a Test this series, but as the country's most prolific opening-bowling combination watched from the dressing room he showed the qualities that have had lovers of pace drooling.

England were racing at lunch before Tait and a couple of rain intervals helped draw them back. By stumps he had done everything promised: dished out yorkers and bouncers, swung the ball sharply, leaked boundaries and grabbed two crucial wickets.

Nothing in the game matches a seriously fast bowler at full charge on debut. His first spell was nervous but an over after the break proved he was comfortable. When the covers came off the next time he appeared to be running in calmly on a Pura Cup ground instead of Trent Bridge with the Ashes series balanced at one-all. After today plenty of people will be toasting the first performance of a confident man from the Adelaide Hills.

Shining the ball on his shirt to leave a stain like spilt wine, Tait is a throwback to the 70s with his scruffy, shirt-hanging-out style and desire to rough up batsmen. The only thing missing is gristly facial hair. Instead he's a cleanly-shaved, well-cropped 22-year-old.

Tait accepted the responsibility of a re-shuffled pecking order thanks to Jason Gillespie's poor form and Glenn McGrath's injured elbow, and with two quick wickets dragged his team-mates with him for their best spells of the day. Michael Kasprowicz waited three Tests for his first wicket, Brett Lee broke through in his opening over, and Tait's in-swinging yorker crashed into Marcus Trescothick's stumps in his seventh.

Running down the pitch with arms in the air he hugged Adam Gilchrist like a returning spouse at the airport. For Australia's 392nd Test player it was an important statement followed quickly by a superb fast-bowler's edge as Ian Bell made Gilchrist the fourth wicketkeeper to celebrate 300 dismissals. This time Tait offered a casual finger-swirl, which made him look like he'd been taking Test wickets for years.



Tait celebrates his first Test wicket © Getty Images
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Tall, muscular and delivering around 90mph, Tait continued to wobble the ball and worry the batsmen. His return late in the day coincided with Ricky Ponting's fortunate dismissal of Michael Vaughan, which was a brave and successful gamble after another day of annoying mistakes from his side.

Two catches were dropped off Kasprowicz and Lee bowled Trescothick with the 18th no-ball of the first session. They had transgressed a ridiculous 22 times, half of those from Kasprowicz, when rain finished the day. Club players are punished with fine-jars and push-ups for similar bowling and catching donations, but the team needs to avoid torn pectorals and further unscheduled injuries. A host of replica urns could be placed in a glass box near the door to remind them of the potential seriousness of their indiscretions.

While some of his heavily experienced team-mates were lethargic, Tait blew in some life with a debut that displayed his promise. Figures of 2 for 62 have already bettered the opening of Jeff Thomson, his slinging predecessor, and are encouraging for both a young bowler and a country searching for long-term prospects.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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