There are few more thrilling sights in cricket than watching a fast bowler in action.
That’s why the crowd at Grenada’s National Stadium on Friday will be doubly fortunate when champions Australia and New Zealand wrap up their World Cup Super Eights campaign.
For in Australia’s Shaun Tait and New Zealand’s Shane Bond they will be watching two of the outstanding quicks in the Caribbean.
Tait, Australia’s strike bowler in the absence of the injured Brett Lee, is third on the list of the tournament’s leading bowlers with 16 wickets at 22,12 while Bond is tenth with 12 at under 13 apiece.
Both right-arm bowlers are capable of making breakthroughs with the new ball and coming back later to take important wickets in the middle of an innings.
However, the similarities end there.
Tait (24) still mainly relies on sheer pace generated by a huge shoulder turn in an unorthodox action that has been likened to that of Aussie pace great Jeff Thomson, who terrorised the world’s best batsmen during the 1970s.
Bond, as befits a former police officer, is less wayward and bowls a generally fuller length with fewer short-pitched deliveries. Not as quick as Tait, the greater experience of the injury-plagued, 31-year-old Bond, who has played 66 one-day internationals compared with the Australian’s 12, is seen in his greater variety and mastery of late movement.
However, with Australia’s well-balanced pace attack featuring the ever-reliable Glenn McGrath, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament to date with 20, and miserly left-armer Nathan Bracken, the double-defending champions can unleash Tait without compromising his speed for greater accuracy.
That can make life tough for wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist who, during Monday’s defeat of Sri Lanka, saw Tait bowl six wides including one that went way out of his reach on its way to the boundary.
Not that the Australia vice-captain was complaining.
”There’s not many things that can scare you more as a batsman than raw pace, and he’s got that,” said Gilchrist.
”He’s been known to bowl the odd wide here and there and that’s what’s going to come from that style of bowling, but we feel the impact he has makes is well worth taking on those couple of extras.”
Bond, although possessing a far more orthodox action, is unusual among modern quicks as New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming explained.
”He’s a fine bowler and he swings the ball in, a lot of fast bowlers these days shape the ball away,” said Fleming.
”He gets prodigious movement with the new ball that provides a challenge to any top order. He’s been able to use the inswing to a lot of effect and he’s developed other subtleties.”
Bond enjoys the rare distinction amongst current players of having a better one-day record against Australia than for his career as a whole with 34 wickets at an average of under 14 apiece, compared with 124 wickets at 19 against all-comers.
And three of his four hauls of five wickets or more in an innings in one-dayers have come against Australia, including a dramatic return of 6-23 during the 2003 World Cup in Port Elizabeth.
But, in what could be a worrying omen for New Zealand fans, Australia still won that match by 96 runs. — Sapa-AFP