Fortune favours brave Taylor
Ross Taylor didn't endure the nervous nineties on the way to New Zealand's fastest Test century. What he experienced was the normal nineties. He was dropped on 92, cut a searing boundary to point and brought up his hundred with a slash to the third man boundary, having made no attempt to keep the ball down. Eventful, yes, but faithful to the way he had played until then, and how he continued afterwards.
His 138 was an innings marked by the most vicious cutting off the fast men and when he reached triple figures, 73 of his runs had come through the off side. There had been chances - he was also missed at slip on 7 and dropped at mid-on when he had 52 - and his score ballooned so quickly that each Australian failure was magnified.
Patience is not a natural part of Taylor's game and he was more comfortable with the see-the-ball hit-the-ball approach on this occasion. He raced to his half-century from 34 deliveries and spent only 12 balls negotiating the nineties, which had been a problem earlier in the summer when he was twice dismissed within ten runs of a potential hundred against Pakistan.
"I wanted to be aggressive but I wanted to get myself in," Taylor said. "If you'd seen me at the training nets this morning I couldn't hit the ball off the square, so I just wanted to be positive in everything I did, whether it was defence, a leave or attack. When I was in that frame of mind there was probably a few balls that I played hard at that I probably shouldn't have. I had a bit of luck go my way, the rest is history.
"I'd be lying if I didn't [think about the nineties]. But talking to Martin Crowe before this, when I did get the two nineties, he said when you're in the nineties it's just another number. You're out there to score 150 or 200. That was the thing that was going through my mind. A hundred against Australia is always good but in that situation I needed to go on and score 150 or a big hundred."
Taylor didn't rate it as his best Test hundred and it's true that he was lucky. One especially reckless moment was his life on 52, when his ugly slog-swipe off Nathan Hauritz was spilled by Mitchell Johnson at mid-on. However, good fortune is usually a necessary part of such an audacious innings, while they also typically feature moments that will live on in the memory banks.
The 25 off a Hauritz over will be the enduring image of Taylor's innings. He started it slowly, before attempting to launch Hauritz over midwicket, where Shane Watson brilliantly knocked the ball back into play - technically a dropped opportunity - to keep Taylor to a single. But the over finished with three sixes that had the fans scattering to avoid a sore head.
By this stage, Taylor was already past his hundred. His 81-ball century was the quickest by a New Zealander in a Test, beating Daniel Vettori's effort against Zimbabwe by a ball. The first Taylor knew about it was when the spectators were told, which brought a resounding echo to the cheer they had already given him.
"I had no idea, I just heard what the ground announcer, Mark, said," Taylor said. "It's probably a bit embarrassing taking it off Dan on his 100th Test match. I thought Dan got it off about 60 balls against Zimbabwe. I did know he had the record. I played in one Test match where Mark got the stats wrong so I didn't believe him, to be honest."
Taylor might have questioned the announcer's accuracy but the PA system was certainly spot-on when the innings ended and an early tea was taken. A few songs were played, and the list included Elton John's Rocket Man and Australian Crawl's (Don't Be So) Reckless. The titles were especially apt for an innings that mixed a few rash moments with the most wonderful, aggressive strokeplay.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo