Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: Taylor is stitching up Windies plan

Ross Taylor's 495 runs against the West Indies this summer were the second-most by a NZ batsman in a three-test series. Photo / Getty Images
Ross Taylor's 495 runs against the West Indies this summer were the second-most by a NZ batsman in a three-test series. Photo / Getty Images

The abiding memory of New Zealand's home series triumph against the West Indies was the thud of Ross Taylor's bat creating history.

The aim is to repeat the dose in the spin-conducive conditions of the Caribbean when the first test starts in Kingston, Jamaica, tomorrow morning (NZT).

Taylor compiled accolades against the West Indies which were the catalyst to New Zealand's summer of test dominance. His 495 runs, including a highest test score of 217 not out, were the second-most by a New Zealand batsman in a three-test series (Andrew Jones made 513 against Sri Lanka in 1991).

He became the second New Zealander, after Mark Burgess, to score centuries in three consecutive tests. Burgess took 27 months against three countries, Taylor did it in 19 days to finish with a series average of 247.50.

He joined Nathan Astle on 11 test centuries, with only Martin Crowe (17) and John Wright (12) on more.

New Zealand have had a couple of boosts to their chances of winning a second series in the Caribbean - the first was in 2002.

Off-spinner Sunil Narine is not in the hosts' squad because he opted to see out the Indian Premier League with his victorious Kolkata Knight Riders. He has taken 18 of his 21 test wickets against New Zealand at an average of 24.33 compared to a career average of 40.52.

Shane Shillingford will play his first test since December when he was banned before the third test in Hamilton for throwing deliveries against India. The off-spinner's since undergone remedial work but is not allowed to bowl his doosra. He's expected to be subjected to scrutiny from match officials.

"Any time the West Indies don't have player like Narine it's less of a factor," Taylor said. "But Shillingford played in New Zealand ahead of Narine. They rate him highly and, if you look at his games in Dunedin and Wellington, he was their most consistent bowler. These conditions with a Duke ball will favour him more than the Kookaburra on green seamers in New Zealand."

There's also more grass than expected on the Sabina Park wicket, so the visitors will consider playing three pace bowlers rather than debuting off-spinner Mark Craig.

A lot is at stake. They could end ranked anywhere between fifth and eighth, depending on results.

Taylor has returned from a refresher trip to Hamilton after the IPL to reacquaint with his family and have "a few decent flat whites".

He will remain in the West Indies for the Caribbean Premier League when he will play for Trinidad and Tobago's Red Steel franchise.

Taylor acknowledges countering spin could determine the result of the series.

"Often it's a case of judging the length early and getting right forward or back. The best players in the world assess length quickly and play accordingly. If you trust your defence, you'll go a long way towards succeeding."

The IPL is often derided as corrupting test techniques. Taylor played just four games for Delhi, making 59 runs at 19.66 and a strike rate of 100. He believes he's had a reasonable build-up, and was New Zealand's most successful batsman in the warm-up games, with 23 and 55 not out on a bald pitch.

"That's the nice thing about coming from the IPL. I've faced a lot of spin in the nets in spin-friendly conditions. There wasn't a blade of grass on the wicket [for the second match in Trelawny] whereas the groundsman apparently wants to leave more grass than normal on the test wicket. The quick bowlers will still play their part."

New Zealand played four pace bowlers in the 2012 defeat at Kingston when Taylor - who made 60 and a duck - was skipper.

- Herald on Sunday

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