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Match Analysis

A familiar despair marks Taylor's farewell

Brendan Taylor did everything in his last match to give his side a real chance of stunning India, and all he could do was watch it slip away. In so many ways, the theme of his Zimbabwe career

The ball looped gently in the air for so long that Hamilton Masakadza had enough time to set himself up under Suresh Raina's top-edged sweep. Brendan Taylor had enough time to crane his neck to his right and wait for the simplest of catches to be taken. A catch that would have seen India reduced to 157 for 5, and left them needing 131 from the last 15 overs. The catch was spilled. The near-exclusively Indian crowd in New Zealand's largest metropolis roared. The drinks break, in Taylor's last international game before his move to county cricket, was taken immediately after.
Taylor walked slowly towards Masakadza, and then stopped some way short. He lay down on his back and spent the rest of the interval getting some stretching done on his legs. He had batted for two-and-a-half hours to make 138 off 110 and then kept wicket for nearly the same length of time, in addition to leading Zimbabwe. He had done everything he possibly could to give his side a real chance of stunning the defending champions. And he was now watching it slip away from right behind the stumps. Valiant forever but ultimately helpless. Story of his Zimbabwe career, leading to his eventual move to county cricket.
Taylor turned 29 last month. He is at the peak of his quite considerable batting prowess. He has already played 11 years for his country. It is unimaginably cruel to be forced to give up your national colours - "this red shirt" - so that you can provide for your wife and child playing domestic cricket in a faraway land with the remaining years left in you. Years that could have brought more glory to that red shirt. The colour the Flower brothers wore. The colour Heath Streak wore. The colour Brendan Taylor loves so much.
As the Zimbabwe national anthem played at Eden Park this afternoon, some of the players sang loudly along. Taylor was not one of them. He was mouthing those words softly. This was it. The final time he would hear the anthem on the playing field in that red shirt. It was like he had taken a deep breath and was holding it to not get overwhelmed by the emotion. As the end came, the others stopped singing, too. Taylor exhaled with visible effort, almost relieved he had not broken down.
His innings was a blur of incredibly clean, sustained hitting against an attack that became the only one to bowl six sides out of six in the group stage of this World Cup. Was this the best he had batted in an ODI? "I think so, yeah," considering the stage and the quality of the attack. But Zimbabwe did not win, he pointed out. Another hundred in a losing cause, he qualified. "Then it doesn't feel so sweet." Story of his career, he might as well have gone ahead and said.
Taylor's final Zimbabwe press conference was in two parts. Part one where he talked about Zimbabwe's familiar issues - poor fielding, lack of match awareness, inability to build an innings - and about how good India were was professional and matter-of-fact.
Part two, when he was asked about his career, was where the emotion came out. What would he miss the most about being an international player? The voice quavered for an instant.
"To be wearing this red shirt of mine," Taylor said. "I guess it's every international cricketer's dream is to put on their country's shirt. That's why we play the sport. We're lucky enough, we're privileged enough to do that. I will certainly miss that. I'll miss my teammates, the camaraderie that we have amongst each other, the good times, the bad times we go through. That's all part of it. I've had it for 11 years and I wouldn't change that for anything. It's been some special times through good and bad."
He will not change those 11 years for anything. All the money in the world cannot give him what those 11 years have. The satisfaction and recognition of being one of the finest cricketers his nation has ever produced.
The Indians probably cannot even comprehend what it is to leave your national team so that you can make a little money and secure your and your family's future while you are still able to. For them, the national team is the gateway to a lifestyle hundreds of millions of fellow Indians can only fantasise about. They are the selected superstars of an emerging economic superpower.
That did not stop three of them from running over to Taylor after he was dismissed and congratulating him for a fantastic innings, and an international career that deserves respect.
"Shikhar [Dhawan], Virat [Kohli] and Suresh [Raina] came up to me. That really was quite touching for me. They didn't have to do that. They're very established players, and yeah, that was a very nice touch that they did."
Taylor's comments reflected the gulf between him and those three - not in class but in circumstance. Not in ability but in fortunes. Had Taylor been an Indian, he would have been a superstar too. He would not have been allowed to play limited-overs cricket in another country by his board. He would also have had no need to.
His counterpart is among the biggest superstars in the cricket world. As MS Dhoni swatted a four to long leg to move to 72, the asking-rate went under run-a-ball for the first time since the fifth over of the chase. The crowd noticed that on the giant screen and went wilder. Taylor, bent over behind the stumps, stared at the ground, and held that pose, as if to let the finality of one last defeat sink in.
As Taylor was leaving after applause in the press conference, he ran into the arriving Dhoni outside. The two captains shook hands. "See you sometime in England," Dhoni said. Both knew the irony in those words. Life can be cruel. But, as Taylor said, "I guess life goes on." It will. It just will not be in that red shirt again.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo