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USA shelves Taylor middle-order experiment

USA believe they have the best chance with captain Steven Taylor back in his familiar opening role Peter Della Penna

USA coach Pubudu Dassanayake has said that captain Steven Taylor will move back to opening the innings in the ICC World Cricket League Division Four beginning on October 29 in Los Angeles.

Taylor has had a number of trials in the middle order recently, with varied results.

The plan to shift him down the order came after Dassanayake witnessed the left-hander's unbeaten 81 off 53 balls while batting at No. 6 in Florida XI's one-wicket win over a touring Marylebone Cricket Club XI last month. He then got scores of 5, 1, and 1 in three games at No. 4, before moving back to the opening slot where he scored 27 in USA's two-wicket win over Canada in the Auty Cup.

Dassanayake said that after experimenting with Taylor in the middle, he felt both Taylor and the team had the best chance for success in Division Four with him batting as an opener.

"We tried a few things and now we've settled down back into the opening [slot]," Dassanayake told ESPNcricinfo. "This is our batting order. What we had [in the win], we're going to stick to it throughout the tournament.

"We were discussing it and he's comfortable coming down [the order] to bat when the team needs it during the tough periods. But after looking at these conditions, and these wickets where the ball comes onto the bat pretty well, we had a small discussion about it. With his calibre, I think he is better at the top of the order."

The news bodes well for Ravi Timbawala, who was drafted into the USA squad for Division Four on Thursday as a replacement for Srini Santhanam, who was ruled out due to an injury to the right shoulder. Timbawala scored an unbeaten 73, batting at No. 3 in the two-wicket win over Canada, and appears set to keep that role when USA take the field for their first match against Bermuda on October 29.

Timbawala's presence in the middle order also provides more stability for USA as cover for Taylor's inconsistency. Ever since making a career-best 162 off 102 balls against Nepal - who Dassanayake was coaching at the time - in 2013, Taylor has scored 277 runs in 14 innings at 19.79 in 50-over cricket for USA.

In that stretch he has two fifties, but also three ducks to go along with the pair of ones against Canada last week. Dassanayake says that it is important for Taylor to stay aggressive in spite of the low scores, because his approach can devastate opponents the way it did to Dassanayake's Nepal side in 2013.

"His type of batting is not going to be consistent," Dassanayake said. "I'm happy if he can get [big runs in] three games for us. If he scores in three games and we're going to win those games, that's what I'm looking for. He's hungry. As a leader, first time captaining USA [in an ICC tournament], he wants to win this tournament. He wants to contribute."

A part of those contributions are now coming with the ball. In 21 career 50-over matches for USA, prior to last weekend's Auty Cup, Taylor had bowled a total of 7.2 overs, taking one wicket. But in his first match after being named captain, he brought himself on and took 5 for 47 with his part-time offspin. That spurred him to bowl out his maximum quota of overs in all three games against Canada, the only USA bowler to do so in the series.

It may be a sign of things to come in Division Four as he takes on an increased role with the ball, now that he has given up wicketkeeping. However, Dassanayake says Taylor's batting is still what will win USA matches at the end of the day and he is backing Taylor to come through.

"I can see his feelings. When he gets out, he's disappointed, but I know that with his calibre and the way that he's moving, he will get there. I think he understands pretty well how to adjust to conditions. I have confidence that he'll get us through in the five games coming up."