Cricket: Taylor inches closer to NZ greats

By David Leggat

Captain stands at fifth on list of NZ batsmen to score centuries.

Ross Taylor notched his eighth test century in hitting 142 against Sri Lanka. Photo / AP
Ross Taylor notched his eighth test century in hitting 142 against Sri Lanka. Photo / AP

Ross Taylor's eighth test hundred in Colombo inches him closer to becoming New Zealand's all-time leading test century maker.

He's got a way to go, but at 28 he should have his most productive years ahead of him. A comparison with the four players who sit ahead of him on the list is revealing.

Taylor is playing his 43rd test. At the same point in their test careers, of those ahead of him, only Martin Crowe had made more hundreds. Crowe had scored 10 of his 17 by that point.

Opener John Wright had scored four of his 12, becoming a late bloomer over the second half of his career.

Nathan Astle had made six of his 11, while Stephen Fleming had gone to three figures just twice at that stage.

In average terms, Taylor trails only Crowe, while his conversion rate of half centuries to hundreds is on a par with Wright and Astle, less than Crowe and far superior to Fleming, over those players' full careers.

None of those five ended their test careers in prime form.

Crowe's last two tons were in back-to-back tests in England in 1994. His last seven tests were hundred-less.

Wright's final hundred was in his sixth-last match; in Astle's case it came nine from the end. Fleming's outstanding 262 in Cape Town was his last century, 11 tests before his retirement.

Taylor's partnership with Kane Williamson, which stood at 209 when the second day began last night at 223 for two, rescued New Zealand from an early pickle of 14 for two. It is just the fifth partnership of more than 100 by New Zealand batsmen this year, which puts some perspective on their recent efforts this year.

Williamson had grafted resolutely, while Taylor, who had early alarms before settling in, put up an answer to his critics.

Had he been dismissed early, and put it down to a degree of luck that he survived his first half hour, he would have been panned.

At a time when the national team's supporters want to see some starch, both physical and mental, from New Zealand's batsmen, Taylor would have copped another barrage, and probably would have deserved it.

Taylor and Williamson took their stand to 262, a New Zealand record for any wicket in Sri Lanka, surpassing Jeff Crowe and Richard Hadlee's 246 25 years ago, before falling in quick succession.

Both went lbw to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath trying to sweep, Taylor for 142, Williamson at his highest test score, 135.

Test centurions

New Zealand's leading test century makers:

17: Martin Crowe, 77 tests, average 45.36.

12: John Wright, 82, 37.82.

11: Nathan Astle, 81, 37.02.

9: Stephen Fleming, 111, 40.06.

8: Ross Taylor, 43*, 43.43

*Playing in current test, average as of stumps on first day.

- NZ Herald

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