Cricket: Conversion king Taylor targets Cup

By David Leggat

Batsman Ross Taylor cuts a fine figure. Photo / Photosport
Batsman Ross Taylor cuts a fine figure. Photo / Photosport

Ross Taylor could retire tomorrow and he would go down as one of New Zealand cricket's all-time batting greats.

His man of the match performance against South Africa at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Wednesday simply embellished a record which ranks him in the elite New Zealand batting group.

Indeed, he is performing on a par with the game's best, and while you wouldn't wish an eye operation on anyone, Taylor might quietly be wondering why he didn't fix the terygium in his left eye sooner.

His unbeaten 102 at Hagley Oval moved his conversion rate - 50s into 100s - to 34.69 per cent, and has him fourth all-time among those batsmen with 6000-plus ODI runs.

That's seriously good company. It takes some doing but is simply another line to chalk up under Taylor's CV. Only Glenn Turner (47.0) and current skipper Kane Williamson (46.83), among New Zealanders, sit higher than Taylor's 43.85 in averages of those with 20 or more ODI innings.

He's 12 days shy of his 33rd birthday and in prime touch. If you are wondering how long he intends to carry on, he gave an indication yesterday.

Taylor has long suggested the 2019 World Cup is his aim, when he'll be 35.

"It was definitely a goal. I've got to reassess," he said. "One of my major goals is trying to get to the 2019 World Cup and hopefully go one step further than we did in 2015, but there's still a lot of cricket to be played before then, and form and age and all that type of stuff [to consider]."

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson, whose relationship with Taylor has been rocky at times, is adamant where Taylor should sit in the national batting pantheon.

"I think he's always talked about as one of the greats, to be fair. His record suggests he should be seen in that light," Hesson said.

"[Wednesday] was another example in one-day cricket of how good he is."

Hesson deftly leg glanced when the words "Twenty 20" were raised on arrival in Wellington yesterday ahead of tomorrow's third ODI against South Africa.

He has repeatedly said others are in the middle order queue ahead of Taylor, although that thinking may have taken a battering after the hopeless effort at Eden Park at the start of the South African visit.

"Ross is one of the very first picked in one-day cricket, and that [century] was another example of how good he is in one-day cricket. In the next 12 months we've got loads of one-day cricket. That's our priority."

He was the fulcrum of what Hesson termed "a really good batting performance" at Hagley Oval.

"We're just really pleased for him. He was exceptional. The whole group is delighted."

You got a glimpse into Taylor's low key personality on Wednesday night, too. He was sheepish when reflecting on overtaking the century record mark of former teammate Nathan Astle, a player he admired and enjoyed watching.

He knows he has taken only temporary residence at the top of the ODI century list. Two names, Martin Guptill (11 centuries) and Williamson (eight), will at their current rate give Taylor's mark a shake. Then again, Taylor seems far from finished.

On the issue of boxes to tick this summer, Taylor has another coming up in a couple of weeks when the test series starts. South Africa is a country against whom Taylor has been curiously poor.

His highest score against them in seven tests is just 48 not out; his average 24.22. A century in that series would draw him level with legend and personal inspiration Martin Crowe on 17 tons.

With a renewed vigour post eye operation, you'd be wise not to bet against him doing something serious about that record.

Top five
50-100 conversion rates of those batsmen with 6000 ODI runs.

43.64: Hashim Amla (South Africa) 24 centuries, 31 50s, 6825 runs, average 50.93.

40.91: Virat Kohli (India) 27/39, 7755, 53.12.

36.21: Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa) 21/37, 8094, 36.13.

34.69: Ross Taylor (New Zealand) 17/32, 6052, 43.86.

33.79: Sachin Tendulkar (India) 49/96, 18,426, 44.83.

- NZ Herald

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