Tait puts the wind up Wellington team-mates

PURE PACE: The Firebirds’ fiery recruit Shaun Tait in action.
PURE PACE: The Firebirds’ fiery recruit Shaun Tait in action.

No one lost any teeth, but nor were there any wides or no-balls, when the man they call "the Wild Thing" unleashed himself upon his new Wellington team-mates.

In fact, the weather at the Petone Recreation Ground was probably wilder than Shaun Tait, when the Australian fast bowler delivered four brisk overs in the Firebirds' Twenty20 practice match yesterday.

Once clocked at 161.1 kmh, during a one-day international against England, the 29-year-old Tait felt he was 15 or 20 kmh down on that yesterday. But the star recruit still looked quick enough for the blokes that stood 22 yards from him.

"It was actually a decent hit-out," a cold, but happy, Tait said after recording figures of none for 29.

"Obviously the conditions weren't tip-top, but the more bowling I can get into my body the better."

It was Tait's first bowl in any match since playing in the IPL for the Rajasthan Royals back in May. That aggravated Tait's famously injured right elbow and the subsequent surgery has kept him off the paddock until now.

Having terrorised batsmen the world over, the sluggish pitch at Petone and his injury lay-off meant Tait was never going to be lightning quick in the practice match. But the way he coils his 1.93m frame up to deliver the ball is still quite a sight, especially if you're a club player.

The match was designed to give the Firebirds' contracted batsmen a chance to face a genuinely world-class bowler. Instead it was one of the ring-ins, Eastern Suburbs' Ben Orton, who faced 10 of Tait's first 12 balls.

"I enjoyed it, really loved it. It was a great experience facing Mr Tait," said Orton, who was told he'd drawn the short straw after arriving at the ground in the morning.

"That was what I wanted. You don't get to face an international bowler too often."

Orton actually acquitted himself very well.

In the first over he faced, the left-hander rocked on to the front foot and hit one delivery through point for four. There was no danger of Orton driving the next one, though, which was aimed nearer his throat.

But Orton did have the distinction of being the only one of the four batsmen who eventually faced Tait, to hit him in front of square. It came in the form of a powerfully hit drive, which Tom Blundell dropped at cover.

Orton also hit Tait for a six, over third man, even if that was more the result of the howling gale than outright skill.

"He's got so much pace that if you edged it, it was going to fly. In this form of cricket you just wait for the width and hit it," Orton said.

On a "quick deck", Orton conceded, he might not have felt so bold.

"But because it was slow, you did have the confidence that the ball wasn't going to be coming at you too quickly."

For Tait's part, he couldn't quite believe how far the howling southerly made the ball carry.

"Early on there were a few nicks out there and the ball tended to carry over the pickets with the wind. So a little bit expensive, but oh well," he said.

Tait's elbow was playing up a bit, too. But he's got the point where he can grit his teeth through four overs of bowling, having had to retire from 50-over and first-class cricket.

"It would be nice to keep playing the longer forms of the game and obviously I've had my critics over in Australia," he said.

"People say ‘soft' and all that sort of business, but it [the elbow] bloody hurts. It actually really bloody hurts, so there's a reason why I'm playing the shorter form only."

Australia's loss has been Wellington's gain, for the two matches Tait will play in the domestic Twenty20 competition.

He's been joined for those by fellow South Australian Cameron Borgas, who looked very busy and correct in his innings at Petone yesterday.