Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Taylor demotion proves costly

New Zealand captain Ross Taylor might need to lessen the tactical burdens on his mind and rely more on his renowned cricketing instinct.

The meticulous planning his side is undertaking for World T20 matches is admirable but it could need to be simplified as they prepare to almost certainly progress to the Super Eight stage of the tournament. Without going into run rate technicalities, Bangladesh would have to give Pakistan an unforgettable trouncing for New Zealand to miss out. Still, strange things sometimes happen in cricket...

Two areas of concern arose from Taylor's involvement in the 13-run loss to Pakistan.

The first was his decision to bat at six. Taylor is arguably New Zealand's best Twenty20 batsman. The Indian Premier League thinks so, given the Delhi Daredevils pay him what's understood to be over US$1 million a season. Why would Daniel Vettori, reliable batsman that he is, come in ahead of a man known for his dashing strokeplay and ability to demolish attacks?

Taylor claims it was to break up the Pakistani bowling rhythm with left-hand/right-hand combinations where possible. The fact Taylor didn't appear for another 7.5 overs surely defeated the purpose? He eventually made 26 off 11 balls before getting run out. It left a question mark over what might have been, had he batted earlier.

To compound matters, this was the same ground where Taylor dispatched Pakistan for a memorable 131 runs off 124 balls at the 50-over World Cup last year. New Zealand won that match and it bolstered the team's momentum at the tournament. They eventually made the semi-finals.

With hindsight, Taylor admitted he probably should have gone in earlier.

"I was tempted but we had a game plan and wanted to stick with it. Sometimes when those things come off you look like a genius; when they don't, questions are asked. I'll learn from that. I'm sure I won't be batting that low again for the rest of the tournament.

"In other situations Dan getting those runs [18 off 16 balls at a strike rate of 113] would be perfect but we probably needed more. If we were only chasing 150 that'd be an option and I'd still have the confidence to play Dan in that position."

Taylor also noted the impact of Shahid Afridi, who took the wicket of Rob Nicol after he was set on 33, Saeed Ajmal, who claimed the best figures of the match with four wickets for 30 runs, and captain Mohammad Hafeez.

"They're quality spin bowlers. They don't toss many up," Taylor chuckled. "The ball didn't really skid on as much as the other night; it spun a lot more on what was a drier surface. The run rate was creeping up over 11 with 10 overs to go. That made our chase tough."

The second concern was Taylor dropping a regulation slip catch from Hafeez on the third ball of the match off Kyle Mills. Hafeez went on to make 43. It wasn't so much the spill that struck as odd; anyone is capable of that, even Taylor, the man who has taken the most catches (27) of any player in Twenty20 internationals. It was the reasoning behind it. Taylor said he was mulling over his bowling changes, something - at least for the first four overs and perhaps overs 17-20 - that presumably could be worked out before the team crosses the boundary rope.

"I was thinking of who I was going to bowl at the other end [the second over]. I needed to switch off. I said to Brendon [wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum] beforehand, 'should we go with Dan [Vettori] or [Timmy] Southee. Then I looked up and dropped the catch. I'll get better. I saw it all the way. We dropped two catches in the last game and two catches in this game. It cost us a lot more in this match."

Taylor says they're planning to play Sri Lanka on Thursday in the Supoer Eight stage of the tournament but acknowledges anything can happen.

"My grandad's team once got bowled out for two," he said.

Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline (www.emirates.com/nz).

- Herald on Sunday

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