With a picturesque backdrop over the Basin Reserve Stadium in Wellington, the local hero Ross Taylor was slowly and gradually was making his way into history books. En route a precious milestone, he broke and made a couple of records already: he became only the 25th New Zealander to reach 10,000 First-Class runs and third from the nation to have scored 14,000-plus international runs. The other two being Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum.
At stumps of Day one, New Zealand had suffered two major blows when they lost opener Tom Latham and Captain Kane Williamson early in the innings. The latter lasted only 10 balls at the crease as he threw away his wicket cheaply facing a short ball for just two runs. That dismissal brought in the former captain and the most experienced lad of the side at present, Taylor. The former captain has been in a decent touch of late. Especially since he has returned from the eye surgery, he has been scoring runs on quite a consistent basis. Prior to the Wellington Test against West Indies, Taylor had two fifties and an unbeaten century in the previous six innings he had batted.
Not Ross Taylor’s most fluent innings, but yet again he’s played an invaluable knock for his country, bringing up his 28th Test 50. #NZvWI
— Jeremy Blackmore (@Jeremy_2566) December 1, 2017
Taylor walked into the field when New Zealand were 68 for 2 and still trailed the West Indians by 66 runs. He was welcomed by a testing spell from the visitors that pushed Taylor to an extent. He consumed 32 deliveries to score his first 12 runs. The batting conditions eventually bettered on the second day when the Kiwis resumed the day’s play. However, the hosts were pushed to the back-foot immediately when they began the second day. On the first ball of the day, right-arm pacer Kemar Roach dismissed overnight’s batsman Jeet Raval, who got a thick edge which went into the gloves of the keeper. Taylor began the second day with a new partner in Henry Nicholls.
Taylor took his sweet time to get into the rhythm. And once when he got into it, there was no looking back until that one wrong choice of shot. He had a fitting reply to every attack West Indies threw at him. If the bowlers gave him the room, he smashed it behind the point or drove beautifully through the covers. Sticking to his natural play, he mostly concentrated on the singles and doubles as he displayed an excellent art defensive skills with the wrist.
In the first innings, New Zealand used the tactic of short ball against the visitors, which had worked.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 1, 2017
West Indies gave Williamson his taste of medicine when Roach dismissed the BlackCaps skipper with the same sort of delivery. Now with Taylor producing some flawless cricket, the West Indians had decided to switch to the same short ball strategy. However, that miserably backfired. Taylor’s experience of 82 Tests had taught the batsman enough lessons on dealing with the tricky concept of short of length deliveries.
Taylor responded the short balls with pull shots with an absolute ease. He went on to score 20 runs through the third man, 19 through cover and 13 behind square on the leg side. Apart from these, he used both the sides of the wicket to for the singles and doubles he grabbed in between.
West Indies knew Taylor, who had not scored a Test hundred for over a year now, would be desperate to get to the three digit. West Indies had to force Taylor to commit a mistake there. After lunch, West Indies took the new ball and Captain Jason Holder set a defensive field to push Taylor towards his first century of the year. In the 82nd over, Roach as always went wide of the crease and Taylor, lazily left it. There was not much footwork from the batsman. It was something that caught Roach’s eye.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 1, 2017
On the first ball of his next over, Roach beat Taylor’s inside edge. Leaden Taylor tried to drive it without any footwork. The review showed there the ball had not touched the bat and was crashing in front of the off stump. Out of the 129 dismissals in Test cricket, Taylor has now got out LBW for 31 times, the second most after being caught for 74 times.
A loose shot cost Taylor a record 17th Test century that would have put him level with his mentor Martin Crowe and also Kane Williamson. But he had done his job by then. Nevertheless, when Taylor was dismissed on 93 off 160 balls, he had ensured New Zealand’s lead went past 100. His fourth-wicket stand of 127 runs with Nicholls laid the foundation for the next ones in line. Since the foundation was so intact, players like Grandhomme and Blundell did not struggle a lot to carry the momentum forward.
Taylor was among the few batsmen in New Zealand innings who tackled the major bounce on Basin Reserve very well and by doing so, he stuck to his image of being the saviour in the wake of quick departures of the top-order.