“As the series decider looms, Pakistan have an urgent meeting to summon – on stopping the Rossatron. They aren’t winning the series without conquering Taylor’s unquenchable thirst for runs”

If Ross Taylor makes 152 before being dismissed in Dubai in the series decider against Pakistan, he would touch a Bradman-esque point against the sub-continental side. Since the 2011 World Cup, the Kiwi middle-order batsman has 748 runs against Pakistan in 14 matches with 6 not-outs and an average of 93.50. He may not make a 152 at Dubai on Sunday, but Pakistan will know that between them and another bilateral win lies Ross Taylor.

The unacknowledged, underrated batsman has three half-centuries on the trot against Pakistan including two in this series – 80 and 86* – and has been a thorn in Sarfraz’s bid to dominate the series and not just with the bat. In the first One Day at Abu Dhabi, Taylor seemed pretty pissed at Mohammad Hafeez’s action and indicated more than once to the umpire that the Pakistan off-spinner was chucking, pulling the right number of strings in the process to irk skipper Sarfraz Ahmed.

While the supposed un-sportsmanship-like gesture hasn’t sat well with the Pakistani skipper, he has been able to do little to stop the Taylor juggernaut. His scores since the 2011 World Cup against Pakistan give an indication about the kind of batsman he is – 105*, 2, 31, 26, 88*, 59*, 102*, 12, 45*, 52, 1, 59, 80, 86*.

A remarkable piece from these scores is how he has dominated attacks once he scores those first few runs. Only once in ten times has he gone past 30 and not made a half-century before being dismissed. In six of them he was unbeaten, scoring above 50 in five of them. These aren’t merely numbers. There is a method to Taylor’s madness, one ingrained into him from the time his cover drive was declared unaesthetic.

Also read: Vintage Ross Taylor

“To be consistent, the first thing you need to do is to survive your first 20 to 30 balls. To do that you need to trust your defence. More often than not, if you get through those first 30 balls, batting becomes easier regardless of whether it’s a flat wicket, spinning wicket or if it is seaming around. Some days that might happen earlier, other days it stretches out to 40 balls,” Taylor once said in an interview for the Cricket Monthly.

This he vouches for personally and lives up to religiously. While his consistency against Pakistan is adorned, it is worth noting that he isn’t a nemesis to just them. Since the 2015 World Cup, Ross Taylor has 2299 runs in 47 ODIs at an average 67.61, only second to Virat Kohli (min. 1000 runs). He has seven hundreds in this time frame – including a modern-day colossus against England, a stunning 181* earlier this year – and has been an unheralded run machine in world cricket.

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In the rush to declare Kane Williamson as New Zealand’s golden son, Taylor has often been forgotten. He wasn’t one for the name, though. He was adamant about his method and unique technique right from his childhood and while coaches tried to coax him to change, after a point when runs kept flowing, they saw no point. It’s similar in the Williamson – Taylor duel.

Taylor is Black Caps’ second most successful ODI batsman ever after Stephen Fleming. He has been marred by a captaincy controversy that would have pulled down most legendary players. In the growth of Williamson, New Zealand (and the World) have virtually forgotten about Taylor. But the runs keep coming.

This year, more than half of his ODI knocks are half-centuries. As Pakistan’s menacing attack steamrolled New Zealand’s batting in the two ODIs, Taylor remained unconquered. His only dismissal came off Imad Wasim but the mistake isn’t one he is likely to repeat.

As the series decider looms, Pakistan have an urgent meeting to summon – on stopping the Rossatron. They aren’t winning the series without conquering Taylor’s unquenchable thirst for runs. Stopping him isn’t easy, all the more so when his last appearance at the venue (Dubai in 2014) saw him crack an unbeaten 105, albeit in a losing cause. He averages a breathtaking 104.50 in UAE in ODIs and should ideally be in the spotlight for this as the teams’ face-off on Sunday. It’s unlikely, though, given its Taylor. He remains inconspicuous and does the unthinkable.

 

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