Cricket: Ross Taylor drives New Zealand to crucial victory

By David Leggat, David Leggat in Christchurch

Ross Taylor of the Black Caps celebrates his century with Jimmy Neesham. Photo / Photosport
Ross Taylor of the Black Caps celebrates his century with Jimmy Neesham. Photo / Photosport

It was the sixth anniversary of Christchurch's killing earthquake; Bruce Springsteen had played an emotional concert in the city the night before; his music filled a warm, packed Hagley Oval throughout the day.

There was a minute's silence before the start, observed impeccably. The day roared out for the right result. New Zealand, with Ross Taylor driving the car, delivered, albeit by a closer margin than had seemed likely for a time.

Taylor overtook his former teammate Nathan Astle's record of 16 ODI centuries, admitted to being a bit sheepish about it, and also became the fourth New Zealander to pass 6000 ODI runs, alongside Stephen Fleming, Astle and Brendon McCullum.

Then he quickly put that into perspective.

"I think AB [de Villiers] is not far off 9000 so you can't get too carried away," he quipped.

"It's always nice when you have a longish career, the milestones will come along but you've still got to enjoy them when they do. It's extra special because it was a win."

As for eclipsing Astle, who played his 223rd and last ODI in January 2007, Taylor was momentarily stuck for words.

"I don't really know what to say," Taylor said.

"I used to enjoy watching him bat. I was fortunate enough to play with him towards the end of his career.

"It's just a little bit embarrassing to take it off him, but I guess records are there to be broken and for the next player to come along and beat me."

Had New Zealand lost today they'd have been staring up at a slippery wall to get back into the five-game series.

Taylor, with the help of his teammates, got the job done.

It was his second ODI century in three innings.

There was the 107 against Australia in Hamilton and in seven innings in tests and ODIs this year, Taylor is averaging 67.16.

There's no T20s in that record, but that's another story.

Those numbers have come after his eye operation and he stands as a poster boy for the merits of the surgery which cleared up his left eye. The procedure sounds awful, but clearly it works.

"He's a fantastic player," an admiring South African captain AB de Villiers said.

"He paced it really well today, almost too well," he added in reference to Taylor leaving it until the final ball of the innings to get his century.

"But once he started going there was no stopping him."

And once again it showed whatever doubters there are out there that Taylor is absolutely essential to the continued health of New Zealand international cricket.

New Zealand's squad remains unchanged for the third game of the series in Wellington on Saturday. Opener Martin Guptill had been expected to return but is still not completely over a right hamstring strain.

The squad will be reassessed again for the fourth and fifth games of the series next week.

- NZ Herald

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