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World Cup 2011

Taylor's upper cut leaves a lasting image

The unorthodox shot is the sole Hawaiian shirt in a wardrobe of plain or striped office wear that includes pure drives, and correct clips and lofts

Osman Samiuddin in Pallekele

March 12, 2011

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Brendan Taylor gets a perpendicular cut away for four, Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 10, 2011
Against Sri Lanka, Brendan Taylor helped a Lasith Malinga bouncer over the wicketkeeper's head for four © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Brendan Taylor
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: Zimbabwe

One of the lasting images from Group A, which has produced few, is Brendan Taylor's take on that most modern limited-overs shot: the upper cut. One of the first times the shot came into the public eye was Adam Gilchrist dabbing a short ball from Darren Gough over the keeper and slips in the 2001 Ashes.

Since then, and since Twenty20 happened to cricket, it has popped up all over the place; Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have probably played it better and more often than most.

But Taylor has gotten closer than anybody to the true intent of the shot: that is, to not redirect the short ball anywhere or deflect it, but merely help it along its original path and line and take third man out of the equation altogether. Against a Lasith Malinga bouncer around off stump on Thursday, Taylor swayed back and merely helped the ball along over Kumar Sangakkara's head. Against New Zealand earlier in the tournament, the short ball was closer to his body so he leant back further and more or less ramped it to a very fine, fine leg.

It is, he says, a stroke of instinct, formed at the very last instant, once line and length have been fully decoded. It is also one of necessity because, he says, he's not very comfortable pulling. He's been playing it for the last few months, having done something similar to Charl Langeveldt in an outstanding unbeaten 145 against South Africa last October. He has given no name to it, leaving that to commentators, journalists and corporate types. Against Pakistan's fast bowlers on Monday, in Pallekele, he will surely get an opportunity to showcase it again. Inevitably the question is asked. "Will you try it against Shoaib Akhtar"

"Whatever he bowls I will be watching the ball closely and I hope to give myself a good chance out there and show my ability to bat against him," Taylor replied, a deflection as opposed to a ramp, after training in Pallekele.

Impressive as the stroke is, it is the sole Hawaiian shirt in a wardrobe of plain or striped office wear. His 80 against Sri Lanka was notable not for the upper cut, but for the purity and correctness of his driving and even his lofts and clips. One sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan, picked up outside off, was sent skidding perfectly between midwicket and square leg on the boundary. At the crease he cuts an impeccable sort of profile.

He's had a good World Cup, starting but not fully going on against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, something which Zimbabwe need him to do. Once he fell against Sri Lanka, the rest fell swiftly. "It's very frustrating and I don't have the answers," he said. "But knowing the guys' work ethic and their preparation and skill, they've got maximum amount of ability and it's frustrating not seeing them put it on display in the middle. I'm sure they can pull something out of the hat on Monday."

His own record against the stronger teams is worthy enough even if he averages just under 30 against Test-playing nations: two of his three one-day hundreds have come against Sri Lanka and South Africa, with the third against Bangladesh, and 14 of his 21 half-centuries have been against Test sides, though five of those are against Bangladesh. Taylor said the experience of playing against the big guns in the World Cup is helping him.

"There are so many good players here to watch and learn from. I've learnt about playing in different conditions, under lights, playing in humid conditions, and I've picked up new things. Playing different teams every game, you are always going to be up against it. I feel I have done my preparation and it's just a matter of executing my skills."

There will be several talented players on the pitch on Monday. "Players like Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul are bowling very well. They are a good all-round team and we know they will be up for it after their performance against New Zealand, so it would be a good challenge. We've got to front up. Their bowling would be more of a threat to be honest, but we know they have some capable strikers of the ball. So far in the tournament, the likes of Afridi in the middle overs and their seamers have done a good job for them."

Something about Taylor appears intrinsically, but not ostentatiously, upbeat, and in a team that will, for now, lose more than it wins it isn't a bad trait. Pakistan are Pakistan as every side knows and capable of doing a Pakistan on any day. Bangladesh have just beaten England, and Ireland did the same. The spirit may float over across to Sri Lanka.

Taylor said Bangladesh's win on Friday would act as an inspiration for Zimbabwe. "We know that it's a must win game for us but at the same time it's a serious challenge for us so we've got to believe that we can win otherwise there is no point going onto the field. The guys are very determined and hungry to succeed and are always positive. We have to put the performance against Sri Lanka behind us and look forward to a very big challenge on Monday. We know what we are up against and we've got to come out believing we can compete and hopefully put in a good performance and, who knows, maybe win."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 15 
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Posted by Bryton on (March 14, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

Quite a poignant point, playing amongst the best in the world will only improve him. If you look at the, albeit marginal, improvement of Bangladesh, one actually can argue that exposing the lesser teams can only do them good. Not just in the WC, but in between more importantly. All Zim has had as opposition is Bangladesh, and the associates, surely there cant be improvement from that. I would argue why not have all teams touring SA pass through Zim, for a once off (its only an hour's flight) and one of the warmup tour matches in SA can be sacrificed, common ICC and world cricket, if you are serious about growing cricket you will see sense in this.

Posted by J Trevor on (March 13, 2011, 19:57 GMT)

Zimbabwe don't need two seamers like they did with Sri Lanka, they just need one seamer and then the extra place should be used for another batsmen like Duffin or Vusi. Their spinners are their asset Panyangara went for 24 runs in his opening over and Mpofu wasn't great at the start either, vs Sri Lanka so they should only use one seamer and use the place for another batsmen.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 13, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

Adam Gilchrist never used it like the Indian openers - check 2005 ashes failure vs freddie flintoff and co. getting caught at the slips.

Posted by Andrew on (March 13, 2011, 13:18 GMT)

Point of correction @Majr. Rhodesia was always its own country and never part of South Africa. They even voted to stay out of the Union of SA back in the 1920s, so eager were they not to be part of the bigger country to the south. Indeed, the history of both countries would be very different had they ever been joined. It is like saying that New Zealand is part of Australia or Canada is part of USA, or Sri Lanka is part of India - not something that people from the smaller countries ever like! But I do agree that we have a great cricket heritage!

Posted by Calvin on (March 13, 2011, 8:08 GMT)

Zimbabwe can surely upset Pakistan if they stick to their plans and play a disciplined game. Their batting has to click.

Posted by P Subramani on (March 13, 2011, 6:46 GMT)

I am not too sure if Mark Greatbatch is the one who started this stroke. I saw it for the first time when Sachin Tendulkar played it against the South African quicks in a Test match in South Africa several years ago. Sehwag was making his debut in the match that I am referring to. I also remember seeing Adam Gilchrist guiding Shoaib Akhtar in the finals of the 1999 World cup in the course of his breathtaking innings. From what Brendon Taylor does in moving back and pushing the ball over the slip cordon wicket keeper and leg slip it is clear that he has improved upon even the original creation.The Zimbabweans have it in them to do well as we have seen in the past. They had suffered a setback wil the political uncertainty in their country but seem to be bouncing back. What is important for everyone to remember is that Zimbabwe is the erstwhile Rhodesia a part of South Africa,always a great cricketing nation. We must also remember the Houghtons, the Flowers and the Fletchers.

Posted by rao on (March 13, 2011, 3:14 GMT)

i can think of quite a few batsmen playing uppercut even in early 90's but they used to slash a high ball , some batsmen sending it over point, some over gully n some send it flying over slips.so u cant really say which of those batsman invented it or used more often.but that shot meant going hard at ball but in this article they r talking about guiding a ball over slips or keeper or even to fine leg depending on the angle of delivery.there is difference between guiding n slashing the ball. as far as playing that hard upper cut is concerned Mark Greatbatch really played too many shots of that sort in 1992 world cup becoz of shorter boundaries.n then there was gilchrist..so there is no question of sehwag n sachin inventing it in 2001 when it was already being played in 1992.as far as guiding it over keeper is concerned i dont think sachin sehwag ever did that, not intentionally atleast.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 13, 2011, 0:30 GMT)

"pakistan are Pakistan, and capable of doing a Pakistan on any day" - CLASSIC line From mr Samiuddin :D

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 13, 2011, 0:06 GMT)

Have a look at any old Botham's Ashes video- Dennis Lillee played it a number of times at Headingley in 1981, as did Peter Willey off Lillee in the same game. Indeed Willey was caught at short third-man by a fielder Lillee had placed there specifically for the shot.

Posted by Vikram on (March 12, 2011, 23:36 GMT)

Zimbabwe beating Pakistan will heavily depend upon Kamran Akmal playing in the XI; if he does, anything that does not hit the stumps will be an upper cut.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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