Taylor accepts England challenge
Derbyshire 256 and 143 for 5 (Chanderpaul 57) trail Nottinghamshire 443 (Taylor 112, Cowan 59, Hales 56) by 44 runs
If Derbyshire do turn out to be the whipping boys of Division One - not that anyone should wish that upon such well-managed and progressive newcomers - then James Taylor's century in this match may not be held to be of particular value. On the other hand, if Taylor's Test career is rebooted sooner rather than later, it could be seen as an important moment.
Either way, it has put Nottinghamshire in a position of strength, with the potential to complete a victory here despite the threat of showers on the final day, especially after the fillip of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's wicket late in the afternoon, soon after he had completed his second half-century of the game and when looking absolutely set. With Wayne Madsen gone too, not much batting remains for Derbyshire to clear their arrears, let alone give themselves anything to work with.
If there is a batsman with something to prove in the early part of this summer, then it is Taylor, whose rise from pint-sized wreaker of terror among Division Two bowling attacks to Test-class middle-order batsman might have seemed inevitable to some of his admirers but when it came last August suffered a false start.
Taylor, who moved to Nottinghamshire the winter before last after scoring freely for Leicestershire, was picked when Ravi Bopara withdrew from the second Test against South Africa. It did not help his cause to find himself unwittingly caught up in the Kevin Pietersen storm, although he will not fall on that or any other excuse to explain his modest performance. It was not seen as good enough to be retained for the winter tours and his absence from the list of names in the England Performance Squad indicated all too clearly that the selectors want to see more.
Taylor, for his part, has no quarrel with that assessment. "It was a disappointment," he said. "I had a taste of Test cricket and it was amazing to get in that England side in the first place but I didn't deliver the way I wanted to.
"But I learned a lot from last season and in some ways it is good to have a setback to kick you up the backside. There is a difference in quality between second and first division. It is definitely a step up, although I don't think my own performances were a reflection of that.
"Sometimes though you need to take a step back to take two steps forward. I know where I stand with England and it is just down to me to score as many runs as I can."
In the event, it was just the mindset that was needed here, on a slow pitch that has rewarded graft. Taylor's approach was first not to get out, taking his cue from Chanderpaul. From 67 overnight, he scored only 26 more before lunch, without one boundary, negotiating 77 balls against a Derbyshire attack who maintained their discipline and again offered few easy pickings.
When his century came - incongruously from a false shot, an edge between first and second slips that brought only his fifth four - it was the slowest of his 14 so far in first-class matches, from 265 balls and 14 minutes short of six hours. He shared a stand of 52 with Stuart Broad but the support he had from Luke Fletcher was equally important in getting him over the line, the bowler sticking by Taylor more than an hour.
Broad's knock was eventful, to say the least. He can bat when he is of a mind but he rode his luck spectacularly as Derbyshire's fielders somehow managed to drop him three times in the space of five balls before Tim Groenewald at last clung on to a top-edged hook.
The stricken Andre Adams batted with a runner in his last appearance before an anticipated five-week lay-off with a torn calf muscle and though he could contribute no more than a swing and a nick Nottinghamshire did finish with a lead of 187. Taylor fell for 112 when, finally taking a risk or two, he skied David Wainwright to mid-off.
Derbyshire were soon up against it, losing two wickets for 24 and though Chanderpaul gave them hope in a partnership of 83 with Madsen the departure of both in the space of five overs put Nottinghamshire back on top. Chanderpaul felt he was unlucky to be given out caught behind, claiming the ball brushed his thigh rather than the bat, but the wicket was one that Fletcher deserved. Broad went wicketless and it was Harry Gurney, an improving left-armer, who struck the second decisive blow when Madsen was leg-before. Then Patel had Ross Whiteley taken at slip to leave Derbyshire hoping for a good last morning and a wet afternoon.