Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 2nd unofficial Test, Dambulla February 21, 2014

Taylor's case becoming undeniable


Taylor slams CV on selectors' table

Sri Lanka A 72 for 0 and 289 trail England Lions 605 for 7 dec (Taylor 242*, Robson 142, Plunkett 74*) by 244 runs

There was a time in English cricket where a ground committee would assemble over small sherry in an oak-panelled boardroom to select the England XI to play on their facilities. Political agendas, personal crusades and plain old bias resulted in some peculiar choices. It could be argued James Taylor has been the victim of similar practice in the past two years but his case for Test selection must surely now catch the attention regardless of preconceptions.

Taylor has previously built his case in the background. A promising youngster at Leicestershire, he became a serious contender for international duty after moving to Nottinghamshire. A steady stream of runs have been made in the County Championship and for the England Lions. Here, his first-class best 242 was a major innings with all eyes upon him. Taylor has slammed his CV on the desk of the selectors. And he should not leave the room until he is picked.

Taylor is ready for a return to Test cricket. At just 24 he has played over 100 first-class matches and competitive cricket in a variety of conditions around the world. He has made runs everywhere, too, and now holds five first-class double-centuries.

Taylor admitted before this tour that he had given the selectors leeway to not pick him because he had not gone above and beyond the players in the Test side. His tour of Sri Lanka began in that mould with two attractive half-centuries in six innings. But this was an innings no-one can fudge. He made a century and then feasted merrily on his chance to turn an impressive score into one that marks him out a different class of player. Graham Gooch, Mr Daddy Hundred himself, approved from the boundary.

He has hooked admirers in for a while. But England have kept him at arm's length. Brought in for his Test debut in August 2012, he hardly looked out of place against a strong South Africa attack but was not selected for the India tour. Last summer he was the player on standby for Kevin Pietersen - and made a century against the Australians for Sussex - but despite also averaging a healthy 46.25 in the Championship was not included in the Ashes party. He averaged 60 in Australian club cricket instead, also getting the chance to work with Mickey Arthur.

He was in complete control on the third day. The previous afternoon he had Sam Robson for company as a fellow Test candidate made his own century; building an innings as the junior partner is a calm place from which to play. Twenty-four hours later, Taylor was in full focus, his timing at its peak, knocking Sri Lanka A all over Dambulla and when England declared they had a lead of over 300.

He slept on 99 but struck the first ball of the day to bring up his century, and also transpired to hold off the second ovation until after tea, taking the interval on 199. His final two runs of the session came via a nervy leading edge through cover. He had played few scoring strokes in the second hour after lunch as he lost some of the momentum that had hitherto seen fluid accumulation. Most of his runs came forcing the agenda - three times skipping down the pitch to lift the spinners to the wide long-on boundary.

The double century stowed away, Taylor played with complete freedom. So completely at one with the ball being delivered at him, he hit it everywhere, the pick of the strokes being a lofted extra-cover drive for six. Consecutive reserve sweeps brought up England's 600; a third for a single saw them declare with a monumental lead.

Liam Plunkett was a large part of the blitz of 76 runs in seven overs after tea, having done his level best to give Taylor the chance to bring up his double before the break. Plunkett is a very capable batsman and flourished here with licence to play he strokes. Three crisp strikes sailed for six, including a peach over long-on.

But the reality of taking another 10 wickets dawned in the 21 overs Sri Lanka A faced before the close. Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne enjoyed the easiest conditions for opening batsman so far in the series. This pitch is exceptionally good. Too good for a four-day match. It is unlikely to deteriorate to provide England's spinners with much assistance on the final day.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Adrian on February 22, 2014, 11:25 GMT

    Thanks Cod&Chips. I just don't see the merits of Morgan in the long form game. Ideally I'd say if they stick with Root he should stay in the middle order for the moment, although that depends on who else Cook could open with. There is an opportunity to blood a couple of inexperienced players in the summer and I hope they take it rather than going back to those who have already tried and failed at test level.

  • David on February 22, 2014, 10:11 GMT

    Compare averages and strike rates for Taylor and Bairstow.

    Taylor: First class: ave 48.80 List A: ave 50.76; SR 82.01 T20: ave 35.29; SR 114.93

    Bairstow: First class: ave 42.53 List A: ave 27.47; SR 98.21 T20: ave 17.87; SR 114.53

    If Taylor makes that many runs at those kind of rates, across all three formats, and is still only 24 plus is seen as having a good cricket brain (he has often captained the Lions), then he can be three feet tall and made of butter for all I care. Get him in the team now!

  • Lee on February 22, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    Great performance from Taylor, hopefully it will be enough

    I think the biggest factors impacting our batting line up are: 1) Our lack of experience spin option (Borthwick, Rayner and Kerrigan competing for 1 spot now) means we need a Root or Ali to give us a second spin option in the team 2) What is more important, someone who can open (Root) or someone who can come in lower down the order (Ali)?

    The above plays a big part is who is in the rest of the line up. For me with have limited natural openers, natural number 3's and then a whole host who can play 4 and 5 (Bell, Taylor, Morgan, Ballance, Ali).

    Bell isn't a natural 3 so I'd like to see him move back down to 5 to hold the innings together... at 3 we have Trott, Compton or maybe Lumb who are natural 3s...Trott if mentally ok 1st choice then Compton for me.

    And so... Root (natural opener), Cook, Compton (natural 3), Taylor, Bell, Prior, Stokes, Borthwick, Broad, Jordan, Anderson

    Opinion changes daily...good luck selectors

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2014, 0:04 GMT

    I bet the England 1st team coaches and management are drooling at the chance to destroy another promising young player.

  • Michael on February 21, 2014, 22:52 GMT

    Taylor keeps on delivering for Lions. He is a bit reminiscent of Thorpe who did a number of A tours. Hope he delivers in tests too.

  • o on February 21, 2014, 22:38 GMT

    Why does everyone go for Root ? I'd much rather have Carberry opening v Sri Lanka and India and Comton also ahead of Root. I don't think Bairstow should be in the team either. Taylor deserves a shot however ahead of Morgan who everyone seems to now be pushing since KP's departure.

  • Paul on February 21, 2014, 21:46 GMT

    I think England's lack of a properly convincing spinner tips the balance in Moeen Ali's favour in the middle order. Picking him allows them to pick just specialist seamers or alternatively takes pressure off someone like Borthwick. Morgan is going to get one last chance, but Taylor will be breathing down his neck.

  • Ron on February 21, 2014, 21:43 GMT

    ""James Taylor has scored 2731 runs at an average of 57 for England Lions. What else has he to do. He has to get his chance like Bairstow and Root a long stint would be fair."""

    he has to be a public schoolboy

  • Roshan on February 21, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    I think Root and Anderson should definitely be rested for now as they have been overworked, and I think we've all seen enough of Carberry. Possibly Woakes in for Stokes, as he has been worked a lot too (even in T20s which is a little strange). Onions' place is a given (at least it should be), Taylor seems to be a good batsman, Jordan seems to be a good bowler and I would play Ballance as well seeing as he is pretty good too. I would not put Bell at 3 from past evidence, but he seems to be the only option for now. I'm guessing Robson will open and Bell will be at 3, but Compton should be able to provide back-up for both of these positions. Here's my Test XI:

    1) Cook, 2) Robson / Compton, 3) Bell / Compton, 4) Taylor, 5) Ballance, 6) Stokes / Woakes, 7) Whoever the best gloveman is, 8) Broad, 9) Onions, 10) Jordan, 11) Whoever the best spinner is.

  • ESPN on February 21, 2014, 18:36 GMT

    James Taylor has scored 2731 runs at an average of 57 for England Lions. What else has he to do. He has to get his chance like Bairstow and Root a long stint would be fair.

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