England v Australia: Taming of Tait's pace important as Strauss aims to maintain edge

NatWest Series: England are hoping they have tamed Shaun Tait as they seek to restate their supremacy over Australia in today's fifth and final NatWest Series match at Lord's.

Tait's return to one-day internationals, after a 16-month hiatus, has coincided with an Australian resurgence.

England hung on to win by one wicket at Old Trafford, a third successive victory which wrapped up the series, despite Tait's impact as Australia opted to replace the injured Nathan Hauritz's off-spin with the fragile Tait's extreme pace.

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Ricky Ponting, who has to manage the 27-year-old's workload into spells often as short as two and sometimes even one over, has seen enough to admit there is a temptation to try to talk him into a return to Test cricket.

It is a moot point whether Tait's body could stand that. But alongside fellow fast bowler Ryan Harris, he has done enough – with combined figures of 4-51 in defeat at Old Trafford and victory at The Oval – to rattle England a little.

Captain Andrew Strauss has departed once to Tait and once to Harris, but not before making 124 runs in his last two innings and he senses he and his team have reattuned themselves to the threat posed by one of the world's quickest bowlers, and his slingy action.

"Tait is quick – and over the first couple of games it has taken us a while to get used to his action again, because the trajectory he fires the ball at is different to most bowlers," said Strauss.

"We played him better at the Oval and we hope that will continue at Lord's."

Strauss is reluctant to nominate any one bowler as the quickest he has faced but acknowledges Tait is among the contenders, with his unpredictable line of attack an added hazard.

"The speedgun says he's right up there," he said. "He and Shoaib (Akhtar) have actions where it is harder to pick the ball up. But express bowlers need to put the ball in the right place, otherwise they can be expensive.

"Tait has done that pretty well, but we believe there are still opportunities to score off him if he doesn't get it quite right."

However they handle Tait, after their 78-run reverse at The Oval, England have already foregone their chance to whitewash Australia 5-0 – a scoreline with added resonance in an Ashes year.

Instead, they will have to settle for 4-1 at best, and Strauss naturally does not want to compromise any more on the margin of success.

"Having pretty much dominated the first three games, we don't want the series to finish 3-2 – that's not the way we'd have anticipated the series going, having been 3-0 up," he continued.

"We've got to play better than we did at The Oval, look back at how we played in the three games we won and repeat that."

In this series, England have already defied world rankings which place them fifth and Australia first. But both Strauss and coach Andy Flower are in agreement there are areas for improvement – specifically greater productivity from a top four in which the captain has fared significantly better than his opening partner Craig Kieswetter and No 3 Kevin Pietersen.

"If you want to climb up the world rankings you can't be winning one and losing one," added Strauss, stressing the need for more consistency.

"There's only been one hundred in the series (from Eoin Morgan, at No 5), and that's an area we've identified for improvement. As a batting unit we can probably play better than we have done."

Strauss is nonetheless convinced Kieswetter and Pietersen – without an ODI 50 in his last 15 innings – will deliver soon, and said: "Craig has shown what he can do in the World Twenty20, and I've absolutely no doubt he can do it in 50-over cricket as well."

England (from): AJ Strauss (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, EJG Morgan, LJ Wright, TT Bresnan, MH Yardy, GP Swann, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson, RJ Sidebottom.

Australia (from): RT Ponting (capt), SR Watson, TD Paine (wkt), MJ Clarke, CL White, MEK Hussey, SPD Smith, JR Hopes, RJ Harris, SW Tait, DE Bollinger, JR Hazlewood.

Mcc to explore zimbabwe's return

The MCC hope to send a team to play in Zimbabwe, as long as a fact-finding mission of the country suggests the trip is feasible.

The club's world cricket committee – chaired by Tony Lewis and including ex-Test captains Steve Waugh and Rahul Dravid – have been addressed on the subject of Zimbabwe by Andy Flower, in the course of a two-day meeting.

They announced their ambition to investigate whether Zimbabwe may be ready for a return to the Test cricket fold, at a Lord's press conference.

The committee also urged the International Cricket Council immediately to institute day-night cricket, rather than allow another 18 months of further discussion first.

There is a consensus at the MCC that all elements are already in place for the break with tradition to allow Test cricket under lights – and the move is likely to breathe new life into the format.

The MCC cannot be so unequivocal on Zimbabwe despite a favourable presentation from that national team's former captain, and current England coach, Flower – hence they are planning to find out for themselves.