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Ross Taylor's career needed realigning at the start of the season, and he has responded with a glut of runs which is taking him to rarely seen heights for a New Zealand batsman
December 11, 2013
It was West Indies' moment. Ross Taylor had driven at a wide delivery from Tino Best. The ball flew at head height between second and third slip, and Kirk Edwards committed to the catch. But Instead of holding on to it, he palmed the ball away to the boundary.
New Zealand would have been 26 for 3 if the chance had been held. The confidence that West Indies had gathered from the latter half of the Dunedin Test, would have surged. Instead, New Zealand closed on a healthy 307 for 6, and Taylor had taken his tally for the series to 362 by the time he was, eventually and ironically, acrobatically caught at deep point after being given two further lives once he had passed his hundred. That late wicket perked up West Indies, but there will be plenty of nagging regret at what might have been.
The ball did not jag around as may have been expected on a well-grassed surface, but that was largely because the West Indies bowlers did not allow it to. Tino Best created chances, but his length was inconsistent, and although Shannon Gabriel's early figures were economical - 11-4-18-0 at one point - it would have been worth the risk of a few more driven runs for the threat that the pitched-up ball brought. The ideal length was the one that found Hamish Rutherford's edge, only to be spilled at second slip by Darren Sammy, although it was not a costly error.
"When you're inserted on a greenish wicket, we'll take six for 300 most days of the week I think," Taylor said. "I wouldn't say it was nipping round corners but the odd ball kept you honest."
The frustration from Best was that he was actually very dangerous when the fuller length was found. He showed this with the first ball of the match after a full delivery caught Peter Fulton trapped in the crease for lbw, until the DRS, and an early use for Real-Time Snicko in support of Hot Spot, confirmed a thin inside edge. It was very thin, for even the batsman did not seem aware of it, as he waited nervously for a few seconds before calling for a review.
Only having two wickets in the bag by lunch was a missed opportunity, but the visitors kept a foothold in the day as their spinners picked up a wicket apiece after tea; Brendon McCullum flicking Narsingh Deonarine lazily to midwicket, and Corey Anderson bottom-edging a sweep from Shane Shillingford straight to Kieran Powell.
That West Indies resorted to using spinners for 31 consecutive overs either side of Tea was an indication that their seamers weren't firing. In fact, by the time the second new ball was taken, Best had only bowled 11 overs in the day.
Taylor did not waste his reprieve. "I thought it was there to hit and it was nice to have a bit of luck," he said. A dismissive pull off Sammy took him to his half-century, but his most significant shot was when he lifted Narsingh Deonarine over midwicket. It is often a favoured scoring area for Taylor but one that he had completely locked away in these two Tests until then.
His most uncomfortable moment during the knock came when Gabriel slammed a delivery into his rib cage. There were concerns late in the day when he began flexing his right leg and took on some pills from the physio, but he said he was down due to a lack of energy from only eating a small lunch. The resulting lapse in concentration cost him his wicket.
When he had brought up his 10th Test hundred - his second on his home ground - in front of his parents who had travelled over the Rimutaka hills from Masterton, Taylor went past Stephen Fleming in New Zealand's all-time list, in almost half the Tests that the former captain had played. Taylor also ticked off the 4000-run landmark. It has been a busy week.
Unlike some players who say they ignore numbers, Taylor was happy to admit otherwise. "It's nice to beat players who have played for a long time and beat their scores in less time as well," he said. "I'm happy with where I am at the moment and just want to continue, obviously there's a few more hundreds I want to score - not just 11,12 or 13."
He entered this Test with a career-high ranking following his double-hundred last week, which moved him into the top ten of the current list. With 794 points before this innings began, he is now almost certain to become only the third New Zealand player - after Glenn Turner (1974) and Geoff Howarth (1981) - to top the 800-mark. Turner is also the only New Zealand batsman to be ranked at No. 1, and at his best, was well clear of Garry Sobers in second, followed by Martin Crowe and John F Reid who both reached No. 3 during their careers.
Although comparing eras is an inexact science, it is the nonetheless impressive to see Taylor's progress, considering that his career needed to be realigned at the start of the season. Whatever advice Crowe has been dispensing to him has had outstanding results.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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