Unfinished business for Ross Taylor
Ross Taylor has unfinished business. His return to New Zealand colours after his self-imposed break from the game after losing the captaincy has not been easy. Perhaps a series away from home will give him the chance to finally banish any hangover and begin the next phase of his career.
Despite New Zealand's improvements over the last few months during England's recent visit, they still need an in-form Taylor to add ballast to the middle order and help give their rapidly improving bowling attack runs to work with on a regular basis. That's the sort of Taylor who was on show during his last Test as captain when he struck 142 and 74 against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
The runs did not flow during the home season against England despite his hundred in the second one-day international suggesting he had turned the corner. In the three Tests that followed he made 94 runs in five innings, then after the series gave a radio interview which made it fairly clear that there were still difficulties. "I wouldn't say I'm as comfortable as I would like to be, but I guess that will improve over time," he said the day after New Zealand came within a wicket of beating England.
"I suppose I didn't really know what to expect when I came back," he told ESPNcricinfo in the build-up to the first Test at Lord's. "T20 is hit-and-miss and I missed out a few times. In the one-dayers I felt pretty good and got a hundred but the Test series didn't go to plan. But it's in my hands to change that during this series."
Following a short break after the home season, and despite a lean period with Pune Warriors at the IPL - a highest score of 19 in five matches - Taylor is in no doubt that he retains his drive. "I'm extremely hungry. I've got some goals I want to achieve with the team and also some personal goals," he said. "If you aren't playing you can't achieve that. Hopefully I can tick a few of those off over the next few years."
Taylor has played three previous Tests in England - during the 2008 series - and produced a memorable display at Old Trafford where he struck an unbeaten 154 off 176 balls during which he pulled and cut England's bowlers to distraction. But Taylor knows that in order to take advantage of the quick-scoring conditions you often encounter in England, batsmen have to put in plenty of early hard work. He will need to use all his knowledge and experience after having just one warm-up innings against England Lions.
"You have to be a bit more careful, leaving deliveries that you would normally drive in other parts of the world. It's always important to work on your defence when you arrive in a place like England were the ball will do a bit. You can't get away with chasing it the same way you would in other countries."
Taylor's return to the Test team coincided with a vast improvement in the output of New Zealand's top order. Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton struck hundreds against England while Kane Williamson began consolidating his position at No. 3. The by-product for Taylor was that he had to get used to waiting much longer than had often been the case during his career, and it was not a task as easy as it may sound.
"I've never really had the privilege of waiting too long to bat," he said. "In my most recent Test it was about 100 overs - I've never had to do that. It was often nowhere near. Hopefully that is something I can get used to. It's about learning to switch and off while you are waiting four or five hours to bat. I certainly don't mind having to get used to it."
Whatever the score is when he walks to the crease at Lord's, it would be a perfect location to spark his Test career back into life.
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Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo