Cricket: Taylor's blast to glory shows perfect timing

By Andrew Alderson

As Ross Taylor lay flat out sleeping across some spare seats at the back of the plane from Colombo to Mumbai on Wednesday night he could rest easy at the thought of his impeccable timing.

The sort of timing to blast balls at will into the stands and beyond against Pakistan; timing in his return to form as New Zealand vice-captain just as Daniel Vettori suffered what could be a tournament-ending knee injury; timing in that he reassured himself, his teammates and, no doubt, his Indian Premier League suitors the Rajasthan Royals that he is a big name in the batting business.

He even did it on his 27th birthday, for goodness' sake, and celebrated as Taylor knows best: chowing down on a ready supply of the Colonel's secret recipe. After the match he even joked he should probably buy Kamran Akmal dinner too, after the Pakistan wicketkeeper dropped regulation catches off the New Zealander on his fifth and seventh deliveries.

Taylor's patchy form was starting to resemble a drought. Before Tuesday night, he had scored less than 10 four times in six bats this year as well as 23 not out and 69. Before that, in 12 one-day innings on the subcontinent, he had scored three fifties but was out for less than 10 five times. It was his first ODI century since October 2008.

Taylor needed that century and appeared to mouth "about time" when he slumped to his knees and removed his helmet in the euphoric aftermath.

Making 131 runs off 124 balls with 55 coming from the last 13 was an innings of gravitas, something New Zealand will need from the new skipper with Vettori hobbling in pain.

The skipper was due to see a specialist in Mumbai overnight New Zealand time to further inspect the injury. He is almost certain to be ruled out of the match against Canada on Sunday, meaning left-arm spinning all-rounder Luke Woodcock comes into the reckoning and Taylor will lead.

Taylor has already led New Zealand nine times in ODIs. In eight innings he has averaged 41.87 compared with an overall average of 36.31. He is not daunted if he has to assume the role for the remainder of the World Cup.

"I've captained the team in quite a few matches now; we've also got some senior players to help and bounce ideas off. If it did happen then it'd be an honour," Taylor said.

"It's been well documented that I haven't been in the greatest form. It's been frustrating for me and probably others as well. I've been trying to search for the perfect game, but when you are out of nick you need a bit of luck.

"When I got the hundred there was relief and anger."

Taylor says the win helped cement the plan instituted by coach John Wright that the team should work towards being no worse than three down after 35 overs - against Pakistan they were 141 for four.

"Wrighty's brought a positive atmosphere to the changing room to build players up. He's still a hard taskmaster in a few areas, wanting us to train hard and prepare professionally. It is not easy for a coach to come in a couple of months out [from a World Cup]."

Central Districts teammate Jacob Oram is one who has seen the best of Taylor as he emerged through the ranks, be it sending missiles into the lake at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth or peppering the high-altitude seats at McLean Park in Napier.

He rated the innings up there with Stephen Fleming's 134 not out to keep New Zealand's chances alive at the 2003 World Cup against hosts South Africa.

"For sure, that is the epitome. We all know how Ross can hit a cricket ball. He scratched around at the start but to see him at the end when he had his eye in: it was pretty devastating.

"I've seen him do it a lot for CD, but not as much at this level ... The ball was going a long way, plus he was facing Shoaib Akhtar in the 140s so it's not just some medium pacers.

"That was a hell of a win against a tournament favourite - one of the best I've been involved in at a World Cup ... to beat them comprehensively was a great effort."

Oram says it highlights the team's talent, but they need to harness it better. "When we play well we can beat anyone. I know looking at our draw people thought we'd probably beat the minnows and lose to the main sides and still get through to the quarter-finals.

"We wanted to prove it's not going to just be win-loss, win-loss. We wanted to show the cricketing public we can play. A lot has been written about us and we wanted to send a statement. The byproduct is the confidence we take."

With New Zealand top of their pool and due to play Canada on Sunday and Sri Lanka next Friday, it comes down to how accurately Oram's promise can be delivered. If Taylor continues to produce his best it will certainly help.

- NZ Herald

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