“In the middle overs, Latham was street smart in his approach. He was taking those ones and twos and playing the second fiddle to Taylor, who was concentrating on hitting the big shots. Against the spinners, especially against Rashid, Latham used the sweep shot to good effect”.
It has been a memorable Wednesday for New Zealand cricket. They overcame a lot of odds to chase down 336 against mighty England and set up a series-decider on Saturday, majorly thanks to Ross Taylor’s career-best unbeaten 181, that too with a limping foot.
However, amidst all the glitz and glory surrounding Taylor’s Herculean effort, let us not forget the supporting act Tom Latham had played, batting at No. 5. Yes, Taylor was the aggressor, but Latham, with his 67-ball 71, played a perfect foil to him. Without his support, Taylor wouldn’t have managed to pull it off single-handedly.
After being reduced to 86 for 3 in the 17th over, the pair got together and shared a game-changing 187-run stand in 25.5 overs for the fourth wicket. Remember, this was the same pair which bailed the Blackcaps out in the first ODI at Hamilton when they were tottering at 3 for 27, chasing 285.
However, here at the University Oval in Dunedin, the circumstances were completely different. When Latham joined Taylor at the crease, the asking rate was touching the 7.5 mark. The England bowlers, especially Ben Stokes was in the middle of a tight spell. And early in his innings, the southpaw survived a review and a caught and bowled opportunity against Moeen Ali.
So, it was a somewhat a pressure-cooker situation and one wicket at that point would have been decisive.
But the duo hung around and it was Latham, who showed the first signs of aggression when he hit Ali over the deep-midwicket boundary in the final ball of the 20th over.
After being dominated by England’s spin twin of Ali and Adil Rashid in the previous game, New Zealand had a point to prove and the Taylor-Latham pair did it in style. On Wednesday, 126 runs were scored off the 18 overs which the English slow bowlers bowled.
In the middle overs, Latham was street smart in his approach. He was taking those ones and twos and playing the second fiddle to Taylor, who was concentrating on hitting the big shots. Against the spinners, especially against Rashid, Latham used the sweep shot to good effect. Also, he was stretching his front-foot as much as possible to keep the leg-before out of play. Latham might have been LBW twice, once to Ali and once to Rashid, but he was so far down the pitch on both occasions that the umpires were perfectly in their right to say not out. So, his gameplan against spin did work.
Meanwhile, when the asking rate touched nine-an-over, Latham hit two sixes in three balls off Mark Wood and Stokes to allow Taylor to play his normal game. Even when Taylor was unable to run the quick singles because of his injured thigh, the southpaw just gave him the majority of strikes. It allowed Taylor to keep himself in the animated zone to go for the big shots.
The plan was to take the game as deep as possible and the duo managed to implement it brilliantly.
“Once we got to about 160-170 I thought if we batted really well, we were a chance,” Taylor said after the game. “Until then it was just about batting and trying to get a position from where we could win. I thought we were ahead of the game when Colin de Grandhomme came out, he only got 20 but it was a great cameo which meant we could take it deep without taking risks.”
Eventually, when Latham fell to Tom Curran’s slower-ball, finding mid-off, with 63 needed from 48 balls, New Zealand had firm control over the match. It was a pity that the left-hander couldn’t reach a three-figure score, but his team, as well as Taylor, knows the importance of his innings in the contrast of this successful run-chase.