Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: Taylor has grounding for Lord's

A century against England tops New Zealand batsman's bill of fare as first test begins at hallowed ground.

As a member of the Lord's ground staff 11 years ago, Ross Taylor is as qualified as anyone in the New Zealand squad to discuss how to best deal with playing at the spiritual home of cricket.

Taylor took up a scholarship as an 18-year-old in 2002, fresh out of Palmerston North Boys' High School. Like his mentor Martin Crowe in 1981, Taylor spent almost six months absorbed in the culture of the Marylebone Cricket Club. He played a test at his former workplace in 2008, scoring 19 and 20 before making what he says is still one of his three best test centuries, 154 not out at Old Trafford in the second test.

"Lord's is a special place for me. Turning up as a young cricketer every day for six months you developed a good routine. I had to wear a jacket and luckily I'd been to boarding school so I knew how to knot a tie. [Former England test player] Clive Radley was our coach and we played some second XI cricket which was a good grounding for first-class cricket on my return. It reaffirmed this was what I wanted to do for a living."

Radley, the former MCC head coach at Lord's nursery, caught up with Taylor on Tuesday while pottering about his old haunt.

The memory of picking up the New Zealand No4 at Heathrow Airport remains vivid.

"He was pretty raw. I said I'd take him straight to his hostel and we'd go past Lord's on the way. The MCC young cricketers happened to be having a net. Ross said he'd rather do that than go to the hostel, if that was all right, and proceeded to try to smack every delivery out of the indoor school.

"I kept telling him 'calm down, calm down', but he continued to do that until the end of May when he got the message that the wickets were actually doing a bit. He has since become a better cricketer than I ever thought he would. He's turned into a bloody good test player. He hit the ball as far as anyone I'd seen but it wasn't until I saw him get a patient hundred in Hamilton [Taylor's debut test century in 2008], that I thought he had the right attitude, both mentally and technically."

Taylor remembers his Lord's test as nerve-racking: "I'll still have the same nerves this time but I'm sure I'll deal with it better.

"In 2008, we lost a couple of early wickets and I remember clipping Jimmy Anderson off the hip first ball for four and thinking 'yes, I can't get a duck'. I'm a lot more relaxed than I was then; I might've put extra pressure on myself as a former member of the young cricketers' staff."

Taylor has since dealt with the well-documented career hurdle of losing the captaincy. However, a spark appeared to have returned to his eyes both at the team function at New Zealand House on Monday night and at training the following day.

"I feel a lot better than I did over summer. It was nice to get away to the Indian Premier League. It didn't go as well as I would have liked but in hindsight not playing has given me the energy and motivation to get out there again. I've just gone back to the basics and tried to play straight. It's great to be back at Lord's but hopefully I can wait as long to bat as I did during the New Zealand summer [Taylor only came to the wicket once before the 22nd over in the England series]. I was getting pad rash."

Taylor says his lack of IPL form provides a sense of deja vu, dating back to the last England tour.

"The funny thing about that Old Trafford test is I was hitting the ball woefully leading in. It showed how quickly you can turn things around in cricket. It gave me confidence for the rest of my career, knowing you don't have to feel great to score runs."

Taylor admits he still has a couple of weaknesses at Lord's. The first is the temptation of the legside boundaries, particularly if the pitch is skewed to either edge of the block. This test pitch is closer to the middle.

"Club bowlers could get me lbw trying to hit across the line in my days with the MCC." The second weakness is Lord's famous player menu. Taylor, a renowned seafood lover, opted for a lunch of sea bass in his initial return through the WG Grace Gates. He described it in understated terms as "not bad at all".

First test

NZ v England
Lord's, first day, 10 tonight.

- NZ Herald

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