Taylor's best earns Nottinghamshire semi-final
Nottinghamshire 313 for 5 (Taylor 146*, Patel 55) beat Derbyshire 228 (North 67, Patel 4-49, Shahza 3-33) by 85 runs
James Taylor would be quite justified in asking what more he must do to be given the chance to relaunch his England career. As Nottinghamshire advanced to the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup, it was their captain who made it possible, marking his 100th appearance in List A matches with his third century in five outings, his 11th in the format overall, going on to finish with a career-best 146 not out.
The first of the aforementioned three in five was for England Lions, whom he also captained, in the 50-over tri-series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand's A teams earlier this month, which would seem to be as good a place as any for him to advertise his form.
Given that they have lost both Alex Hales and Harry Gurney at a key point in their season, his Nottinghamshire team-mates would have been seriously inconvenienced if England had wanted Taylor for the one-day matches against India as well, yet they must wonder why he was overlooked. Interestingly, his average in one-day cricket is 52.33, compared with 36.55 for Hales.
On a slow pitch, this was a wonderful, beautifully paced innings, sensibly cautious at the start, when the bowlers were getting some movement under heavy cloud cover following Monday's deluge, nicely measured thereafter as Samit Patel, Riki Wessels and James Franklin played the key supporting roles, and with an explosion at the end.
He and Patel added 136 for the third wicket despite the best efforts of the latter to bring about his demise, calling for a single not once but twice and sending his captain back when halfway down the pitch. Thus, on 26 and then 71, Taylor had to propel himself through the dirt and hope his bat was grounded at the critical moment. Patel did at least make some runs of his own, passing fifty for the first time this year in 50-over cricket.
This followed a double calamity in the fourth over after Taylor had won the toss and elected to bat first. Michael Lumb, looking in good touch as he hit the erratic Mark Footitt for four boundaries in the third, was run out at the non-striker's end as Ben Cotton deflected a firm drive by Steven Mullaney into the stumps. Two balls later, Mullaney pushed at one outside off stump and edged to Wayne Madsen at first slip.
Patel fell, hooking Footitt into the hands of Bill Godleman on the square-leg boundary, during a batting Powerplay that added 40 between the 33rd over and the 38th, advancing Nottinghamshire's total to 198 for 3. Wessels hit 28 off 19 balls before he was caught at midwicket off a mistimed sweep, Franklin 27 off 26 before he was run out, and Taylor, once he had completed his hundred off 134 balls, let rip to add 46 more from 20 deliveries, including three sixes off Cotton and another off Tony Palladino.
David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner, bowled nicely, conceding only 35 runs from his 10 overs, but the frontline bowlers leaked runs at more than seven an over, with Footitt a particular disappointment after enjoying a good season in general, his county's leading wicket-taker in this competition and the Championship.
Derbyshire would have needed to make the highest total in their history to win a one-day match batting second and though they kept pace with Nottinghamshire's scoring rate for the first 20 overs or so they fell away steadily thereafter, despite Marcus North's 67. Patel denied North the chance to inflict any further damage and was supported to greatest effect by Ajmal Shahzad, who took 3 for 33.
Shahzad, having bowled Godleman off an inside edge for 25, struck an important blow when Madsen drove a slower ball in the air to Sam Wood at cover. Patel bowled Alex Hughes and had Scott Elstone caught behind thanks to the still extraordinary reflexes of wicketkeeper Chris Read before Derbyshire's chance diminished to the point of mere academic possibility during the batting Powerplay, when North went down the pitch to be stumped off Patel and Gareth Cross, who had threatened briefly by smiting 23 off 14 balls before a miscue that Taylor took very well over his shoulder at cover gave the left-arm spinner his fourth success in the space of 22 deliveries.
Wainwright gamely gathered 41 off 30 balls coming in at nine as Nottinghamshire allowed the last two wickets to add 65 but it was labour in vain.