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July 28, 2013
James Taylor has declared himself far better prepared for Test cricket now than he was on debut last year, despite conceding that his unbeaten century against the Australians in Hove was less than fluent. Taylor and his temporary county team-mate Monty Panesar both enjoyed their audition against the Australians and both will hope to face them again next week after being named in England's 14-man squad for the Old Trafford Test.
Panesar's chances of playing hinge largely on the condition of the pitch in Manchester, while Taylor's hopes rest on the condition of Kevin Pietersen's troublesome calf. Taylor, parachuted in from Nottinghamshire in order to gain some experience against the Australians, scratched around for his 121 not out and was dropped twice before he reached triple-figures but said if he received the nod in Manchester he would be ready.
"It wasn't the best innings I've played, it wasn't one of my most fluent at all, but it's about finding a way when you're not feeling in the best touch and I did that," Taylor said. "Mentally and technically I feel in a good place. I'm delighted to score runs, I don't really mind how. It's not how, it's how many, and that's how I go about my game."
Taylor's two Tests against South Africa last year brought scores of 34, 10 and 4, and he was told by the selectors to go away, work on some technical issues and churn out the runs at domestic level. He has done that, piling up 824 for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship this season, and his hundred against the Australians was his third first-class century this summer.
"I've worked hard on my game since I was left out," he said. "It was a great experience playing against South Africa but it was all too brief, and I've gone away and worked really hard since getting left out. I've piled on the runs like the selectors asked me to and I feel like I'm in a good place now.
"I was in a kind of a no-win situation in this game, but the purpose was to spend time in the middle against the red ball after all the T20 cricket in recent weeks and it was nice to do that against a decent attack. It was definitely a pressure situation - if I hadn't scored any runs everybody would have commented on that, but luckily I did and got what I needed out of the game."
Like Taylor, Panesar got what he wanted out of the match against the Australians, picking up 3 for 70 in the first innings, and it was another confidence-booster after a difficult start to the summer. Panesar has managed only 21 wickets at 40.09 during the Championship this season but he said some remedial work with Peter Such, England's spin bowling coach, had put his season back on track.
"I kind of struggled early season, I was not getting the action I wanted to get, and then I went away and did a bit of work with Peter Such on a one-to-one basis to get my action in the right order," Panesar said. "Over the Twenty20 period I've used the time to get my action in order, and in the Championship games and in the dry weather we've had I've tried to perform and prepare myself if the call came."
Panesar has an outstanding record at Old Trafford, where he has collected 25 wickets at 16.72 in three Tests, but it is five years since he last played a Test there. If, as expected, the teams are greeted with a dry pitch, a two-man spin attack could well be employed by England, and Panesar said he would fancy his chances against the Australians in such circumstances.
"The England team have put them slightly under pressure, but the Australia team is a very competitive team, they are going to come hard at us. You always feel maybe against spin there is an opportunity," he said. "But they are good players, you can't completely discard Australia, they're a competitive cricket team - but I do feel even in this game I was always in with a chance."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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