Cricket: Loss but Taylor made again

By Anendra Singh

Black Caps v England

Second ODI

McLean Park, Napier

Lost among the pronounced English St George's Crosses and Union Jacks, an artless but stark black-and-white message tucked away at a corner of the Lowe Coporation Stand read: "May the fours be with you."

For the most part it sounded like false prophecy for New Zealand but that rapidly changed with 10 overs to go in the second ODI in Napier last night although the "force", in the overall scheme of things, proved elusive on the foundation of a tepid bowling and fielding effort.

Regardless of the Black Caps' eight-wicket defeat, with 14 balls to spare in the series leveller against England at McLean Park, the hosts' innings was a classic case of how lethal teams can be in batting when the marriage of brain and battery finds a happy medium.

If the batting acumen shuddered a little, it was perhaps towards the end of the innings when Ross Taylor looked in danger of missing out on his seventh ODI career century as middle and tail-order batsman lubricated the revolving door.

Perhaps Trent Boult and the tailenders needed to see the remaining balls through as the Mike Hesson-coached New Zealanders finished 269 all out with six balls to spare after England captain Alastair Cook won the toss and chose to field.

Yet again, Taylor found traction on the prime real estate of head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff in Napier, resurrecting his international career following his unceremonious dumping as captain late last year under the Mike Hesson regime.

Coming off a self-imposed exile after missing the South African tour, the 28-year-old had admittedly not racked up runs to his standards in the three-match Twenty/20 series and the opening ODI in Hamilton.

If, arguably, Taylor labels a couple of other venues his favourite in the ever-demanding ritual of diplomacy in New Zealand then so be it but last night, inarguably, he showed McLean Park to be a platform of turning points for him.

"It's awesome to see Ross has found his form," fellow CD teammate Ben Wheeler said on behalf of the Stags after stumps in the Plunket Shield match in Nelson.

Few will argue with that but, to put it in perspective, it's encouraging stuff from a man many consider to be the only truly international batsman among the Black Caps before the three-test series begins early next month against England.

Taylor arrived at the crease to a rousing welcome from the crowd of 6521 -- albeit the more vociferous English won the battle of the fans as well -- only to receive a bouncing g'day from opening seamer Steven Finn.

He and Williamson opted to tick runs over, bringing up a 50-run partnership two balls into the 22nd over although in the penultimate ball of Graeme Swann's first over the senior batsman clutched his right hamstring while cutting the chalk for a single amid some consternation McLean Park is also a venue where he has cramped up and hobbled off after making tons. He shook his right foot a little later after copping an errant delievery while pushing a single.

Kane Williamson departed for 38 runs, chopping a Chris Woakes' delivery with an inside edge on to his stumps with New Zealand nine runs shy of bringing up 100 runs at the halfway mark for the loss of three wickets.

Taylor, whose parents Ann and Neil were among the spectators, brought up his 50 from 81 balls off Swann in the last ball of the 32nd over. It was subdued by his standards, with just three boundaries.

Seamer Stuart Broad tried to intimidate him with a bouncer in the following over but Taylor replied the best way a batsman can - smashing him for a lusty six off the very next ball over long on.

He survived an lbw appeal from Swann on 59, if it can be classified as a chance to get him out, with the Caps on 135-3 before he and Grant Elliott brought up their 50 partnership.

Elliott also occupied the crease intelligently, just as Williamson had done for the most part, giving Taylor the strike until his departure for 23 off 30 balls as he attempted to hook James Anderson after having survived Swann in similar fashion earlier on.

Captain Brendon McCullum's entry brought a murmur of anticipation from the crowd with New Zealand at 143-4 and he didn't disappoint, with the batting powerplay proving to be a catalyst for the ensuing fireworks.

In the 40th over Swann went for 17 runs as the run rate soared to eight an over from the pedestrian four mark.

Woakes wasn't spared either in the next over, going for 21 runs, including a six and three fours.

It was Broad next for 20 before Finn brought a degree of tranquillity in bleeding seven runs.

The pair brought up their 100 partnership before McCullum left for 74 runs, holing out to Broad at long on, but receiving a rousing standing ovation.

Earning a hug and clap from Taylor, McCullum's battery came off 36 balls, including nine fours and four sixes.

Not surprisingly Anderson claimed 5-34, albeit shy of his career-best 5-23, following on from his feat last Sunday in Hamilton where he eclipsed the England record of Sir Ian Botham as the highest wicket taker in all forms.

In reply, England started crisply with Cook and Ian Bell scoring 89.

With a run a ball required in the 44th over, pockets of the crowd started clapping and chanting "Barmy Army" and "who are yer?" as a trickle of fans started drifting off.

It didn't help New Zealand's cause that McCullum and Taylor gave No 4 Joe Root (79 not out) two lives although the game had arguably run away from them by that stage. Jonathan Trott looked stable, finishing unbeaten on 65.

All said and done, the tourists showed what batting and fielding standard was required on a pelter of a pitch with stifling boundary ropes.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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