Taylor's aggression unsettles England
Ross Taylor's attacking half-century showed that grafting was not the only way to score runs at Lord's after England had laboured through more than four sessions. He entered at a precarious time: James Anderson had dispatched the visitors' opening pair back to the pavilion within no time. At 7 for 2, in cold, overcast and swinging conditions, with Anderson charging in with that extra adrenaline having become the fourth England fast bowler to enter the 300-wicket club, New Zealand looked to Taylor to counter.
Taylor did not disappoint. He hit a four off his fifth delivery, a powerful cut off a short delivery from Anderson. At the other end Steven Finn's faltering lengths and short and wide deliveries quickly settled any nerves he might have had walking in. Not only did Taylor make use of long hops, but he also focused on rotating the strike by frequently pushing for singles to increase the pressure on the bowlers. Emboldened by his partner's confidence, Kane Williamson played his natural game, being watchful till the last moment as the pair dominated in the highest stand of the match.
Anderson had gone for nine runs in an over and then Broad was taken for 12 in the most expensive over of the match. Closer to the tea interval, as Taylor attacked the bowlers, the England leadership pair of Alastair Cook and Matt Prior pushed the square leg and point deep and placed an extra cover. Taylor was hit in the shoulder by an accurate short-pitched delivery from Finn. Instead of staying quiet, he cut from close to his body past the third slip and empty gully area.
After the tea break England had the fielders inside what would be the one-day ring except for wide fine leg. But Taylor continued to impose. Twice in two of Broad's overs he hit powerful square drives for fours and then a couple of handsome cover drives. He reached the first half-century of the contest from 49 balls, his first since the second Test in Sri Lanka last year which proved his last as captain.
When a batsman is in such a mood it can difficult to rein in the attacking instincts, but his judgement was sound. It need a high-class piece of bowling to remove him. As the pressure kept mounting on England, Cook threw the ball to his best bowler. Taylor and Williamson initially managed to negate the dangers of Anderson but this time he swung his second ball into Taylor to trap him in front.
Since Taylor has returned to the team, which included a lean Test series in New Zealand, both Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson have made it clear how crucial he is to the future. Their one wish was that he impose himself much more consistently.
This was Taylor's chance. Another hour or two and New Zealand's position would have been even stronger, but in the context of what had gone before in this match it was head and shoulders above anything else although Taylor held a few regrets at not converting.
"I would have taken at the start of the day. But once you are in you need to go on. I am disappointed that I did not do that," Taylor said. "When you lose two early wickets you got to weigh up the situation and I just wanted to be as positive as possible and play straight. It was not my intention to go out and score run-a-ball."
This Test is Taylor's hundredth first-class match. On the eve of the Test, he had tweeted about what better place than Lord's to celebrate the landmark. He has played only once previously at the ground, back during the 2008 tour, but could not cross 20 in the two innings then.
Today he was in pole position to reach the coveted honours board only for it to prove elusive. He could, of course, get another chance but ultimately that is of secondary important to the result of this match. Taylor has ensured that factor remains very much in New Zealand's hands.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo