ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Pallekele
Good Ross, bad Ross
There are two sides to Ross Taylor: the side that attempts too many strokes early, and the one that can be absolutely devastating. In Pallekele, both sides cohabited the same innings
March 8, 2011
Ross Taylor's seven searing sixes will be the enduring image of Pallekele's first one-day international. The fact that Taylor flailed early in his innings, with his feet glued to the ground, that he was dropped and missed again by Kamran Akmal, that he skied another top-edge and was lucky it landed safely, will fade into the haze around Kandy's hills. All that mattered was those seven strikes that cleared the boundary from square leg to midwicket in the final six overs.
One spectator might even have pocketed a souvenir, after the ball disappeared over a stand next to the electronic scoreboard and into the trees behind it, never to return. Twenty20 cricket has made ridiculously fast scoring passé, yet the way Taylor finished his innings still felt like something special. Having scratched his way to 69 from 108 deliveries, he made a scarcely believable 62 from his last 16. It was like he suddenly realised he was better than that. His partnership with Jacob Oram had the best strike-rate of any 50-plus stand in ODI history.
Taylor makes the kind of mistakes that great batsmen don't, but some fine batsmen can't do things that come naturally to Taylor. Most impressive was his timing in those final stages of the innings, when 28 came off a Shoaib Akhtar over and 30 off the next over from the same end, bowled by Abdul Razzaq. The boundary was short and the bowlers helped by sending down low full tosses, but many players would still have skied a catch.
New Zealand supporters have been galled as much as enthralled by their captain-in-waiting in recent times. In the two years up until this match, he was averaging 28.80 in one-day internationals, nowhere near enough for the man who should be the best in the team. He chose a good time to score his first hundred since mid-2008, and not just because it was his 27th birthday.
After thrashing Kenya and Zimbabwe, but being soundly defeated by Australia, New Zealand needed to beat one of the stronger sides to prove to themselves that they could compete in this World Cup. And, though he didn't know it while he was compiling his career-best 131, Taylor might have to lead the side in their upcoming matches if a knee injury sustained by Daniel Vettori in the field turns out to be serious.
If that is the case, he should at least be full of confidence. He wasn't at the start of his innings. Too often when Taylor comes to the crease, he tries to play strokes that he should save for later. His fifth ball was edged between Kamran and slip, his seventh drew an edge that most wicketkeepers in Under-13 cricket would take, but Kamran spilled, and he slashed cuts just out of reach of point off Shahid Afridi.
But good Ross and bad Ross often cohabit in the same innings. When he brought up his hundred with a pull for six off Akhtar, Taylor squatted close to the ground, catching his breath and feeling the relief of ending his century drought.
"I had a bit of luck early on," Taylor said. "My first 50, 60 or 70 balls I felt like I struggled and just tried to guts my way through, and probably caught up in those last 25 or 30 balls, which made my score look a lot better and made my day a lot better as well.
"It's been well documented back home that I haven't been in the greatest form of my life. It's been frustrating for myself, and probably a lot of others as well. When you're out of nick you need a bit of luck and I got that today. Over the last few months I've been trying to search for the perfect game. I've just tried to keep things as simple as possible and just watch the ball. Today was my day."
There is no question that it was Taylor's day, and when Vettori left the field in the sixth over of Pakistan's chase, it was Taylor who captained the side to victory. New Zealand just need good Ross to turn up for the rest of the tournament.
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