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Les Smith at Trent Bridge
June 25, 2013
Sussex 506-5 dec (Joyce 204*) drew with Nottinghamshire 478-8 dec (Taylor 204* )
James Taylor is a young man with a long career already behind him. The problem is that some people seem to blithely assume the best of it is also behind him.
At only 23, he has played with distinction for two first-class counties, captained the England Lions against Sri Lanka, and last year played two home Test matches against South Africa. Many people do not even make their Test debut by then.
A couple of even younger bucks have run up and overtaken him since then, notably the Yorkshire pair of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, but although Taylor denies thinking about England, he must still have hopes, and the innings he played over the last two days - an unbeaten 204 against a Sussex side which sensed at the start of the day that it had a slight chance of victory - will have done him no harm at all.
He started the day on 81 and, when hands were shaken on a draw, he was still there, 30 or so short of his career best. In the process of scoring it he passed 6000 first class runs. He now has 15 career centuries, four of which have been doubles, although not all have them been scored in Division One. Moreover he has had not one but two 97s this year.
It is quite a record, yet England's latest attitude has been to omit him from many of their various squads, squads designed to suit all challenges and all stages of a player's career.
Perhaps they have decided he will benefit by being left alone. Perhaps they will downgrade this as a dead match on a benign pitch. Perhaps they have an issue with the fact he is only 5ft 6ins. Perhaps they will look at the same score by Ed Joyce in Sussex's first innings - an England one-day player whose time has passed - and await more persuasive evidence.
Taylor acknowledged that scoring in the top division is more difficult, and therefore more satisfying. "I think it is a better standard, having played a lot of second division cricket", he said. "It's a step up and I think it's important to show people I can score runs against the best bowlers in the country."
Sussex's challenge was to take 14 wickets in the day, preferably before Notts reached 339, and on a pitch showing few signs of misbehaviour it never looked like happening. They lost only one wicket before tea, Ajmal Shahzad becoming Chris Jordan's fifth victim. He had scored 77 and shared a stand of exactly 200 with Taylor.
Once the follow-on target had been passed the match was effectively over, victim of the loss of more than 100 overs on the first two days. If either side was going to win it was Sussex after they posted their 506 for 5 declared, but the game was played on a flat surface and the batsmen had the upper hand.
James Taylor is a modest young man. He played superbly, especially off the back foot, but chose to point the finger of praise elsewhere.
"It was about scoring runs when we needed it", he said, "and the batsmen stepped up. I definitely couldn't have done it without Azmal Shahzad. He has to be proud of his performance today. It was a flat wicket but you have to deliver results and he definitely did."
Shahzad's restrained 77 suggested a player who might be coming to terms with his wider responsibilities.
Asked about his England prospects Taylor gave a politician's answer. "Ah, I don't really think about it too much to be honest. They're all world-class quality players and I don't compare myself to them. I'm my own person. But I do want to get back there as soon as possible. It's the place to be. And the only way I'm going to get there is by doing what I've done today."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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