Shaun Tait has left the door open for a return to Test cricket after producing one of the fastest spells ever seen at Lord's as he was clocked at 100mph. His 4 for 48 helped Australia to a 42-run victory as they reduced the series margin to 3-2, but it was the first three overs of his stint that really set pulses racing as he terrorised England's top order with a succession of hostile deliveries.
His opening over averaged 96mph and the fifth ball, to Craig Kieswetter, hit the three-figure mark . However, it was his third over that really damaged England as a searing delivery swung back to uproot Andrew Strauss's off stump before, two balls later, Michael Yardy shouldered arms at another lethal offering. In a sign that Tait's injury-prone body was being pushed to see how much it could handle, he sent down four overs before his first rest and while it is highly unlikely he can withstand the five-day game, it provides a tantalising prospect.
"I've never come out and said I've retired from the longer form," Tait said. "I haven't thought about it. I was pretty excited to be called up to the one-day side as I haven't been in it for over 12 months. I haven't played a four-day game for a long time now. I'm in a pretty good place right now. It's the first time for a long time I've stayed on the park as well. In the last eight or nine years I've been injured in each one, apart from this season."
After the fourth match of the series Ricky Ponting had been asked about persuading Tait back to Test cricket. Although the Australia captain has yet to speak to Tait about such a prospect, the idea of being able to unleash that raw pace in the five-day arena was clearly exciting even though the paceman hasn't played a first-class game since late 2008.
"I was asked the other day if I'd consider it and I certainly would," Ponting said, "but I was waiting to see how he came through these games. There are very few blokes in the world who can do what Shaun can and I think he showed today, even at very good top-order batsmen like Strauss, that he can bowl a ball that can get anyone out. And he has the ability to do that with the red ball as well.
"Ultimately it's up to him, but I know he wants to play a lot more cricket for Australia and if he has that desire and bowls like he has done here he'll be difficult to leave out. If it's another one or two-Test series I'll take any game he can play for us."
A more realistic prospect is that Tait can reprise the strike-bowler role he performed with great success at the 2007 World Cup in next year's tournament, as Australia aim for four titles in a row. Tait's performances in this series, where he finished with eight wickets at 12.37 from the three matches, enabled Australia to make up some lost ground on England after they had launched the series with two poor displays marked by a distinct lack of firepower at the Rose Bowl and Cardiff.
"I think he's made an impression on all their batters he's bowled at in this series," Ponting said. "I think Straussy will be pretty happy he's not playing in the next couple of games after that ball today."
"He was pretty quick today and he got the ball swinging a bit as well, which makes it harder," Strauss admitted. "It would certainly be up there with spells I've faced from Shoaib Akhtar and [Brett] Lee. He had a big impact on the result of the game, taking early wickets and putting us on the back foot early on."
Tait had woken in the morning feeling "stiff and sore" and was unaware he'd broken the hundred barrier until team-mates mentioned it but he knew he was in good rhythm from the Pavilion End. "That's the quickest I've bowled, recorded at least," he said.
"I've bowled 160 three times in my career so it's not the easiest thing to do. There are those days you come out and are at the top of your mark that you know your body is in decent shape. I was actually stiff and sore this morning but once I'd done the warm-ups I was fine and that first over I knew it was around that mark."