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George Dobell at Trent Bridge
April 29, 2013
Durham 34 for 1 trail Nottinghamshire 320 (Taylor 97, Mullaney 80, Stokes 3-58) by 286 runs
When you're not much over five feet tall, being overlooked comes with the territory.
Certainly James Taylor could be forgiven for feeling that way. Despite making a decent fist of his baptism in Test cricket - the 147 he added with Kevin Pietersen on debut at Headingley was England's highest fifth-wicket stand against South Africa since they were readmitted into Test cricket - he was dropped just one game later and then omitted from the senior squads to tour India or New Zealand. To rub salt in the wound, he was then omitted from the 30-man performance squad named by the ECB at the start of this summer.
Not only were the England management unconvinced by his ability outside off stump, but there were rumours that one of Taylor's England colleagues in that Headingley Test made no attempt to conceal his own surprise at the batsman's early elevation to Test cricket. It wasn't easy being JT in that dressing room.
But Taylor - who, to be fair, claims to be five foot six (but much in the way that Father Ted used to claim the money was "resting in his account") - continues to make a persuasive case for a recall. Following a century in his previous innings against Derbyshire he came within three runs of recording another here and produced the most solid batting of a day on which 11 wickets fell.
While some might explain away a first-class career average of 47.71 by stating that many of those runs were made in Division Two of the Championship, his record for England Lions is excellent - he averages 61.60 in first-class cricket for them and 38.20 in List A cricket - and, if his technique is unusual, his record suggests it is also highly effective.
While the watching national selector, Geoff Miller, cannot have been totally assured of Taylor's ability on the off side - two third of his runs came on the leg side and he was beaten outside off on several occasions - he can only have been impressed by the application shown by the diminutive 23-year-old.
On a day on which several batsmen played a large part in their own downfall, Taylor fought hard and produced a number of pleasing strokes to fully justify his place in the England Lions team to play New Zealand at his previous club, Leicestershire, that was announced during the day's play.
"I've had some good chats with Geoff Miller," Taylor said afterwards. "I know it's down to me to score runs and it will be nice to go back to Grace Road and do well against an international attack. My game can definitely work at Test level. Sachin Tendulkar is the same height as me. Just look at my record: I've scored hundreds against very decent attacks.
"I felt very comfortable when I played Test cricket; the only problem was the experience was a bit brief. I know I didn't express myself as much as I would have liked, but that was dictated by the match situation which dictated that someone had to dig in."
This was another day for digging in. While Taylor did take Ben Stokes for three successive fours at one stage - two pulls and a drive - he was generally content to accumulate and played a supporting role to the fluent Steven Mullaney in a fifth-wicket stand of 111. Mullaney contributed 80; Taylor just 24.
Broad calms injury worries
When Taylor eventually fell, pushing at an arm ball well outside off stump, he became Gareth Breese's first Championship wicket since September 2008 and only his second since 2006. Breese, playing ahead of Keaton Jennings, has played only five Championship games in six seasons, which perhaps says more about Durham's confidence in Scott Borthwick's leg-spin than it does anything else.
While Taylor reckoned Nottinghamshire's final total was "about par", Durham will be disappointed to have allowed them to score so many. They put down five chances in all, with Stokes, usually so reliable, missing four of varying degrees of difficulty. Will Smith put down the other.
Most of the misses proved expensive. Ed Cowan, who went on to score 40, was reprieved on 4, Mullaney was missed on 6 and Stuart Broad, who made 46, survived chances on 1 and 7. A crude calculation would suggest the drops cost Durham 157 runs.
Graham Onions, as reliable as ever, was the unfortunate bowler on several occasions, but Mark Wood - preferred to Callum Thorp - was just as impressive. Decidedly brisk, he beat Taylor with successive deliveries on off stump and dismissed Mullaney, flashing outside off stump to the first ball of a spell, and Chris Read, beaten for pace and bounce as he attempted to drive. In Stokes, who also bowled with good pace, and Wood, Durham possess a pair of outstandingly talented young allrounders.
Earlier Alex Hales left a straight one, Cowan's pleasing innings ended when he uncharacteristically failed to move his feet to a drive and edged to gully, before Michael Lumb was struck on the foot by a yorker and Samit Patel guided the ball before lunch - a long hop - to point as obligingly as a coach providing catching practice.
While Mullaney batted with pleasing fluency - he drove Breese for sixes from successive balls at one stage - and Broad thrashed about with characteristic abandon - he, too, struck two sixes and, at one stage, four fours in six deliveries - Nottinghamshire could have done with a little more of Taylor's determination if they were to have built a match-defining position.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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