An old head on young shoulders
Hugh Chevallier takes a look at Brendan Taylor who performance has ensured he is no longer an anonymous figure
The coolest head at a frenetic Newlands on Wednesday night was one that few in the cricket world would have recognised. Brendan Taylor, who masterminded the mouth-watering victory was just one little-known member of a little-known team. Not any more: one of his biggest fans is Ricky Ponting.
Brendan Taylor appeals as Mike Hussey is run out by a direct hit from point. Taylor excelled with gloves and bat
When asked how it felt to have Ponting saying that the Australian top three should have batted as Taylor had done, he did admit it was pretty special. "We're all modelling ourselves on them - and want to play like them." Considering this was just his third Twenty20 game and that he is just 21, he is heading in the right direction.
Ponting's approval was well founded. As the Zimbabwe wicketkeeper and opening bat, Taylor was in the heat of the kitchen for all 40 overs. Never once did he betray nerves, not even when 12 were needed off the last six balls. The first ball of that last over was a low full toss just outside off. Not the sort of ball you steer to fine leg for a four. But Taylor did; inventive, resourceful Twenty20 batting at its best.
There were a host of other shots, but perhaps the best was seemingly the most ordinary. Time and again he would drop the ball just in front of the wicket and steal the single. Nothing new about that, but it was beyond the Australian galacticos on a grudging pitch. Taylor recognised the importance, indicating a mature head on young shoulders.
And in amongst the nudges and nurdles lay flamboyance too. When Ponting resorted to Brad Hodge's off-breaks, Taylor saw his opportunity. From the second ball of the 15th over, he straight-drove for a beautiful six. The pressure got to Hodge rather than Taylor. From the last ball, a horrid full toss flew over long-on.
Taylor was clearly elated, but in characteristic style he played down his achievement. "We do have some hitters down the order. Thankfully, we lost only four or five wickets and so they could have a go at the end."
It is easy to forget in the dramatic denouement that Taylor has another suit. He pulled off a high-class stumping to dismiss perhaps the most dangerous batsman when Australian backs are up against the wall: Andrew Symonds. Taylor is unlikely to be anonymous any longer.