Durham will permit themselves a collective little smile if Shaun Tait bowls any no-balls against them in the Emirates Airline Twenty20 Trophy in Dubai this week.
The Australian Twenty20 specialist, the first man to break the 100mph barrier at Lord’s, has joined the MCC squad for the tournament, which also features Lancashire and Sussex.
It is fair to say that Tait was Durham’s least successful overseas signing when, aged 21 and the winner of the Bradman Young Cricketer award, he joined them for the final month of the 2004 season. He totally lost his run-up on arrival and in two games took none for 176 in 18 overs, including 26 no-balls.
Durham dared not risk him again but bowling coach Alan Walker, who is still with them, continued to work hard with Tait and he went home to earn a place in the 2005 Ashes squad. Injuries cut short his Test career and he now concentrates on the short form of the game, in which his in-swinging yorkers are very effective.
Tait joins his Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid in a strong MCC squad, captained by Mark Ramprakash and also including former India captain Sourav Ganguly.
Durham are visiting Dubai for pre-season work for the third successive year and will play a 40-over match against a British Universities team prior to the T20 event. They will also have two practice days and conclude the trip with a three-day match against Sussex.
Mark Wood, the Ashington seamer who made a promising County Championship debut at Trent Bridge late last season, has been ruled out of the tour by a back problem. But Steve Harmison has recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the indoor nets and will play a full part.
The squad will be joined in Dubai by Michael Di Venuto, who is currently playing there for Italy in the ICC World T20 qualifiers. He scored 42 not out off 40 balls in their opening win against Oman, but has struggled in two wins and two defeats since, culminating in a first-ball dismissal against Uganda.
Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood’s unsuccessful tenure as captain of the new South African T20 franchise, Impi, will end with their 12th and final match on March 21. They have not won a game and Collingwood will return home for a week before flying out to play in the Indian Premier League.