“Taylor was quick to take advantage of the visibly tired Shah at the end of Day 3, smashing him for a four and six in consecutive deliveries. He had begun Day 4 with a boundary that helped him get to his fifty, and by the time he was dismissed, Henry Nicholls had taken the momentum forward”
An atmosphere of gloom had already descended around the New Zealand camp in UAE after Yasir Shah had wreaked havoc in their first innings. After Pakistan declared the first innings at 418 for 5, courtesy a painstaking effort from Haris Sohail, the Black Caps were dismissed for 90 and were looking down the barrel of an innings defeat by the time Ross Taylor walked out to bat. The leg-spinner Shah had already snapped two wickets in their second attempt at batting, and with Taylor on the cusp of a pair, a huge task awaited him.
The Kiwi had already been clean bowled for zero by Shah earlier, who has an ominous record in UAE, but with additional pressure this time around, Taylor was intent to bat positively, take the attack to the opposition and to use his feet to navigate the spin. In the first innings, Taylor had faced just two deliveries – off-timing his first with a half-stride defence and then getting bowled with a beauty off the second ball. A bang-on accurate leg-break by Shah that pitched on middle stump that had Taylor defending all around it.
However, the experienced pro was eager to be less crease-bound in his second attempt. In the very first delivery that he faced, he came down the ground and got close to the ball while whipping it to mid-on, and after having avoided a pair, he looked more assured. He defended with a good forward stride when the ball was pitched short, he went back to his crease when it was fuller, and even though Shah troubled him with a drifted delivery on leg and beat him with a ball that turned square, Taylor held on to his own.
“I just wanted to be positive and, first and foremost, get off the mark and just try and pick up length as quickly as possible,” said Taylor.
“He bowled a very good ball that was too good for me [in the first innings] and spun from straight and you’ve just got to make some slight adjustments and try and pick up the length as quickly as possible.”
He did that with ease as he struck deliveries with power, swept balls outside the line and even when Shah fired a sharply spinning cannon at him – the kind that would have dismissed the ordinary batters – Taylor showcased his extraordinary skills by playing it inside the line in an attempt to avoid fiddling with it. Perfectly-timed fours that were cut away and a one-knee sweep after he read the length early reflected the kind of attacking mood that he was in. As he raced away to 49 in just 53 deliveries at the end of Day 3, one could see his experience speaking and as he moulded himself according to the conditions and brought his A game against a quality opposition yet again, the worth of the highly underrated player came to the fore.
“I tried to make the adjustment and hopefully the others can keep the adjustments going and keep them out there as long as possible”, he had reflected after the end of Day 3.
Taylor was quick to take advantage of the visibly tired Shah at the end of Day 3, smashing him for a four and six in consecutive deliveries. He had begun Day 4 with a boundary that helped him get to his fifty, and by the time he was dismissed, Henry Nicholls had taken the momentum forward. Taylor’s 82 off 128 deliveries showed spunk and confidence; he played courageously and inspired his teammates to do so as well, and even after he had been dismissed – by an off a top-spinner bowled by Bilal Asif that garnered some bounce before baffling Taylor – his fellow players tried to make a match of the game.
In the end, they did manage to lose by an innings and 16 runs but if there is one takeaway from the second Test, it was Taylor’s ability to inspire, lead the way once again and force the best out of his compatriots even in the sternest conditions. And this will forever stand as his legacy.