Resolute Taylor celebrates his 100th Test against England (18 November 1998)

18 November 1998

Resolute Taylor celebrates his 100th Test against England


BRISBANE, Australia, Nov 18 (AFP) - Mark Taylor's cricketing cycle is very much on the upswing as he goes into his 100th Test match here against England. Seventeen months ago Taylor's Test cricket career looked doomed after a demoralising run of 21 Test innings without scoring 50.

There were those calling for his head, with former Test skipper Greg Chappell famously saying he was "mentally unfit" to lead Australia early on last year's Ashes tour in England. It's well documented that tormented Taylor, with his head squarely on the block, courageously scored 129. And even though his team lost the first Edgbaston Test to England by nine wickets, Taylor had exorcised the demons. His fortunes have been bountiful in the ensuing period, leading Australia to series victories over England, South Africa and Pakistan.

It was 34-year-old Taylor's noble decision to declare on his overnight score of 334 during last month's second Peshawar Test in Pakistan that has forged him closer to Australian cricket devotees. There was a certain amount of symbolism in Taylor's selfless decision, with Brian Lara's world record 375 beckoning the following day against weary Pakistani bowlers. His decision to voluntarily call off his chase for history for the sake of his team forever linked him with the immortal Donald Bradman who made the same score against England in Leeds in 1930.

One of Australia's great advantages over England heading into the new Ashes campaign is Taylor's intuitive leadership. The boy from Wagga Wagga, like his opening partner Michael Slater, ranks as one of, if not the best, Australian captains of all-time. Taylor has a 57 percent winning ratio as Australian skipper, winning 22 of his 42 Tests, losing 12 since he took over from Allan Border in 1994. He has led Australia to a golden period in international cricket. They are rated the unofficial world champions.

He is an outstanding leader of men. He has the homespun gift of keeping a diverse of cricket personalities from Shane Warne to Ian Healy to Steve Waugh in balance. He has a marvellous sense of fielding and bowling changes, often engineering a vital breakthrough wicket a matter of balls later and he is scrupulously fair. Taylor has accumulated 7,297 runs in 99 Tests, ranking him third behind Border and David Boon as Australia's greatest Test run-getters. He may be known as 'Tubby', but Taylor is an outstanding slips fieldsman. He has taken 148 catches, placing him second only to Border (156) with the most Test catches.

Taylor, who distinctively stands at first slip, arms folded, vigorously chewing gum while plotting his next move, is poised to pass Border during this summer's five Tests against England. Taylor is not Australia's only current centurion. Both Ian Healy and Steve Waugh have played 106 Tests, with Mark Waugh next in line to join the distinguished club on 81 Tests.

Taylor, who suffered in silence during his batting horrors last year, is a remarkable cricketer. His powers of concentration are legendary and it is always for the good of the team, not selfishly garnering a batting average. There will be plenty of fans, not just in Australia but around the cricket world, hoping Mark Anthony Taylor can celebrate his 100th Test in fitting style this week.