Ross Taylor has the most undersold story in cricket, argues Dylan Cleaver, but can he add a fitting final chapter?
What a read it could be: Ross Taylor, striding to the crease in his 108th and most important test, taking guard and cutting, flicking and driving his way to that 20th century that has remained just out of reach since scoring an unbeaten 105 against England 19 months ago.
You can picture the raised bat, the pukana-styled celebration and the body language that bristles at those who have doubted him.
Even the premise this could be the ideal swansong is presumptuous — Taylor, 37, has given no indication he intends to walk away from test cricket — but it is not hard not to view this as a chance to put an exclamation mark on an extraordinary career in the five-day format.
There's a sense, real and imagined, the hour-hand has started to speed up on Taylor's career.
Last summer he was jettisoned from the national Twenty20 team after facing four scoreless balls across two matches (for once out). Injury allowed him just one of the three one-day internationals New Zealand played, a match against Bangladesh in which he batted uncommonly badly. The four-test programme ended shortly after the New Year and Taylor was unproductive, with just one score more than 50 across the four matches.
He has gone more than a year without making a competitive century, even in domestic cricket, so it would have given his teammates great comfort to see him claw back some form with 80 at Edgbaston after a fitful performance at Lord's (14 and 33).
Taylor is no stranger to streaky form but critics have a habit of overstating his decline because when he is short of runs he can look awful.
Taylor can give the appearance of a jumpy schoolkid playing out of his age group. His hands tend to work hyper-fast while his feet remain stuck in slow-motion so his misadventures become a gruesome palette of wafts and swats, with nicks and plays-and-misses being followed by looks of general bemusement.
It can be difficult to see where his next score is coming from.
He always finds a way out, but there is another factor this time. Taylor's recent slide has coincided with the only time in memory that New Zealand's selectors — coach Gary Stead and former ODI stalwart Gavin Larsen — have had depth to choose from.
Devon Conway has forced his way into the side and Will Young and Daryl Mitchell, supremely talented batsmen, are waiting for an extended run in the side.
As the sun sets on what will almost certainly be his final test tour to England, on what will probably be his first and last World Test Championship final, it is time to celebrate the gift of Taylor's career before it is talked about in past tense.
Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor's contribution to not just his country but his sport is immense, yet it always seems like he under-appreciated. He is an illusionist: the longer he is there, the less you seem to notice him.
The simplest statistical analysis will reveal that by New Zealand standards his batting is wonderful and by global standards 40 international centuries should get him a seat at the table among the gods.
Taylor, 37, has usually been a wingman, not a front man.
He came in during the tail end of the Stephen Fleming era, established himself during the underpowered Daniel Vettori years, was emasculated by the big personality of Brendon McCullum and in more recent times has played second fiddle to the genius of Kane Williamson.
For a brief moment in the early 2010s he was "the man", but that spell coincided with a time when New Zealand wasn't held in high regard at home or abroad. Through all the different places and faces, all Taylor did was score runs at a level no New Zealander had done before — until Williamson came along.
Even though ODIs might be his best format, he has been a brilliant test cricketer and in a sport that in New Zealand is overwhelmingly middle class and white, Taylor, as just the second Samoan to play cricket for the Black Caps, should be a beacon.
Like everything about his career, his story has been undersold.
The son of a European father and Samoan mother who grew up on the blue-collar side of Masterton, a town with little reputation for developing cricketers, Taylor's self-made ascension is cinematic in scope, yet no scripts have been commissioned.
Here was a kid, taken by his mother and beloved grandmother to school on his first day to be told by the principal that he would be referred to by his middle name, not his given first name, because it was too hard to say.
"I guess there weren't too many Polynesian kids in Masterton in those days," Taylor once recalled. "In this day and age I'd be called Luteru and there'd be no problem."
His heritage is something he is quietly proud of and if you talk to the people who know Taylor well they'll keep coming back to that word — pride.
Taylor takes enormous pride in his work. He takes enormous pride in playing for his country. The top-tier of T20 riches might have passed him by, but Taylor has never shown any inclination to cash out his international chips to then place a bet on himself in franchise cricket.
Taylor just wants to play for his country as long as possible.
That's why it's a fool's game to predict the end of the line. There should be, however, urgency to everything he does now. Time stands still for nobody.
And if the decision is taken out of his hands and the WTC final does mark the finish line, then it should also mark the start of a conversation that is too often overlooked.
It would go something like this.
Ross Taylor has not only been one of the best batsmen in New Zealand cricket history, he's also been one of the most important figures.
As a child, he would have been aware few of the other kids playing the sport he loved looked like him. He would have taken great pride in the fact even fewer could play like him.
His dedication to his craft should never be underestimated, but his greatest achievement might be this: much of Taylor's early international career was played in an ebb tide, and only a couple of others could claim to have played the role he has in dragging New Zealand into its longest period of rising tide.
● This story is adapted from an essay that first appeared in The Nightwatchman.