Feature

Seddon Park crowd bids Ross Taylor an emotional farewell

The departing hero provided a throwback to his heyday when he hoicked Logan van Beek for six

Himanshu Agrawal
04-Apr-2022
So long, Ross: Taylor walks back after his final international innings  •  Getty Images

So long, Ross: Taylor walks back after his final international innings  •  Getty Images

Standing a step back to get deep in the crease? Yup. A slight shuffle across off stump? Done. Front leg out of the way? Correct. Back leg nearly or fully bent? Right. Bat swing like a broom? Sure. A swipe across the line for six over wide long-on? Why not? Ross Taylor did all of this in a flash when he deposited Logan van Beek over the ropes in his farewell international innings.
Turning the clock back, the 38-year-old expertly swung at the ball like he did in his prime, the neat execution an outcome of free bat-swing and a fearless mindset to accumulate quick runs for his side. The shot was a throwback to the days when he swept and swiped spin and pace alike, in the arc between deep midwicket and long-on, at will.
The moment the ball landed beyond the fence, there was hope something bigger was to come. The noise that the crowd produced in that spilt second - the screeching, the whistling, and the cheering - was never heard in two-and-a-half hours of play until then. In all, the New Zealand batters hit 23 fours and ten sixes on Monday, but none of them invited a remotely close reaction.
Earlier in the day, it seemed as if Taylor would never walk out to bat. His team-mates Martin Guptill and Will Young had put on 203 for the second wicket, and they looked good to pile on more runs and misery on Netherlands. However, in the 39th over, the stand ended when Guptill gloved a catch behind and ceded the stage to Taylor. Perhaps, no New Zealand supporter had ever wanted a wicket to fall so desperately.
And when Taylor finally walked out to bat, it was as if the whole of Hamilton stood still; or at least Seddon Park did. The entire crowd stood on its feet and welcomed their departing hero. Taylor's team-mates in the dressing room gave him a standing ovation, and Guptill, the man dismissed, chose to stand across the rope just in front of the fence while banging his helmet with his glove to allow Taylor his moment, much like Henry Nicholls had done when Taylor was dismissed in his final Test against Bangladesh in January.
That afternoon, Nicholls, who was the next man in, opted to wait in the dressing room to let Taylor walk back and absorb the applause of the Christchurch crowd.
And as every deserving legend, Taylor was welcomed by the opposition for his final international match by a guard of honour.
The first runs Taylor scored was a slashed single past point, enough for the crowd to resume their appreciation. And once he sent van Beek over the boundary, they wanted more. Taylor obliged, only for a slower ball from van Beek tricking him into lobbing it into the keeper's gloves.
Once again, Seddon Park had come to a standstill. The Netherlands players patted him on the back one after the other as he trudged back. That tongue of his, famous for wagging when he reached triple-figures, was stuck halfway out; his mother, perched in the stands to see her boy make her and New Zealand proud for one last time, stood with tears in her eyes. No more watching Taylor bat in international cricket; no more having to see him dismissed.
And just like that attempted heave over the leg side was pleasing to see one last time. It was just as fitting that Taylor took the winning catch. The stars aligned for him once again. Two months after ending his Test career with a wicket, he finished his ODI career in style. Except that, it were his fingers that twirled in his last Test; and in his final ODI, his tongue.
But just before he would get to soak in the winning moment in his final ODI, there was a little teaser that had played out as the match approached its end. With Netherlands nine down and needing an improbable 117 to get from the remaining eight overs, Kyle Jamieson took Taylor's cap off as if to give the impression that he was about to bowl. However, Tom Latham wasn't convinced despite Seddon Park going gung-ho for the third time on the day for their man; and perhaps the last time ever.
"One of my favourite cricketing highlights of my whole life was seeing you there in the middle with Kane [Williamson] in the World Test Championship final against India, and hitting the winning runs," Martin Snedden, the NZC chairman, said before presenting Taylor with a traditional Samoan necklace and a collection of his statistics.
"I never thought I'd play Netherlands," Taylor said in his short farewell speech, not forgetting to wishing them best for the growth of cricket in their country, even when it was all about him on Monday. The camera flashed onto his emotional mother, yet again, as he spoke. Just like us, she would miss watching Taylor and his famous hoick across the line to deep midwicket.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo