T20 Betting: Tait's pace means the only way is Essex

Shaun Tait . . . express delivery for Essex not the Aussies

The Aussies are licking their wounds from yet another Ashes defeat... but Ralph Ellis has found at least one cricketer from Down Under who could be a winner.

"Tait has been the man who has made the difference for Essex in T20 cricket. He’s often turned a decent team into winners, most obviously the hat-trick that beat Somerset in the quarter final."

The man who might have been a match winner for this bedraggled Australian Test team will be in action on Saturday, less than 60 miles from where Darren Lehmann will be trying to rally his battered troops in a two-day game against England Lions at Northampton.

There would be nothing to be gained, however, for the Aussies' head coach if he did get in his car and head for Edgbaston to check out Shaun Tait's form and fitness. The bloke who delivered the second fastest ball of all time at 161kph has long since ruled himself out of Test cricket. His body couldn't stand the physical demands when he was younger, and at 30 it certainly won't now.

Tait remains one of the great "what if" stories in sport. Just imagine if Michael Clarke could start the return Ashes series in Brisbane on November 21 with Tait pounding in at one end and Ryan Harris at the other? Instead, while Australia have been searching all summer in vain for a way to win an Ashes Test match, Tait has been somewhere down the other end of a motorway working as a hired gun in Twenty20 cricket; and a very good hired gun, at that.

The 30-year-old has been the man who has made the difference for Essex in T20 cricket. He's often turned a decent team into winners, most obviously the hat-trick that beat Somerset in the quarter final to earn his county a place in this weekend's T20 finals day. He is also the reason why second favourites Essex look a great bet to win the Friends Life T20 trophy  at 4.1.

Batsmen tend to grab the headlines in the quickest form of the game - but just as in the five day version it is the bowlers who are the match winners. Come up with a devastating spell of wicket taking and there's no time left for the opposition to recover. Essex have not only Tait, up near the top of the best bowling charts with 16 T20 wickets for the season, but the towering 6ft 7ins form of teenage left-armer Reece Topley who has 19.

They are part of a well balanced side in which Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate bring experience as well as runs. It's so strong that even if Alastair Cook had been allowed by England coach Andy Flower to play, it's doubtful he'd have got in the team.

Of the others, it's tempting to think that 2.77/4 favourites Hampshire rely too heavily on the explosive hitting of Michael Carberry. And while Essex won't bother too much about not having Cook at their disposal, the same can't be said of Surrey 4.57/2 without Kevin Pietersen. They were hoping that Flower would indulge KP's love of a big stage to let him loose for a weekend - instead England are staying totally focused around chasing a 4-0 series result at The Oval (by the way, how come a team that has won three and drawn one of four matches are still odds against 2.166/5 to come up with another victory)

The biggest danger to Essex could actually be early in the day where Northants are 2.0621/20 to win their semi-final and have their own dangerous bowling combination of 24 wicket Pakistani seamer Azharullah backed up by Graeme White and David Willey with 17 each. But the extra pace and aggression of Tait on a big match day, especially on a track that tends to hold the ball up and make it harder to time shots against genuine fast bowling, should make all the difference.

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