The mouth-watering speed duel in Timaru between two of the world’s fastest bowlers has gone up in smoke.

Australian cricket’s two premier limited-overs pace-men, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait will not be hurtling down 150kmh deliveries at Aorangi Oval during the domestic Twenty20 game between the Canterbury Wizards and Wellington Firebirds on December 23.

The 27-year-old South Australian Tait was always a touch-and-go prospect to terrorise Wellington’s batsmen, following rehabilitation from elbow surgery.

Canterbury Cricket confirmed yesterday he had not been cleared to play and would not be in Timaru or New Zealand in late December.

Lee’s unavailability is a case of bad timing with Cricket Wellington communications specialist Steve White confirming the 34-year-old was contracted to play for the Firebirds in five of their last six T20 games, but was unavailable for the Aorangi Park match because of commitments with New South Wales.

Unless any late signings are done, South Canterbury cricket fans will have to settle for a battle of allrounders, with Englishman Luke Wright, a prospect to start for Wellington, while former South African international Johan van der Wath is expected to link-up with Canterbury in the coming days, once his provincial commitments with the Free State Knights, in the South African domestic 40-over competition, are finished.

Dutch power-hitter Ryan ten Doeschate and Australian quick Mitchell Claydon are the other international signings for Canterbury, while Dirk Nannes played last night for the Wizards on a short-term deal.

Australians, Mark Cleary, Travis Birt and Damien Wright have all been linked with the Firebirds so far.

South Canterbury Cricket president Andrew McRae said he was disappointed to hear the duo would not be coming to Timaru, but he was still expecting a lot of top international talent to play.

“While it is disappointing that (Lee and Tait) won’t be here, it’s still going to be a great day on the 23rd.

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