SYDNEY, (Reuters) – If there was one thing pretty much the whole cricketing community agreed upon on the first weekend of the World Cup, it was that James Taylor deserved better than to be robbed of a century by a dodgy umpiring decision.
The diminutive English batsman had confirmed his rich vein of form by scrapping his way to 98 as his team mates fell victim to Australian bowlers at the other end, only to be denied his maiden one-day hundred in farcical fashion.
Reprieved from an lbw dismissal on appeal to the third umpire, Taylor was nonetheless denied the chance of reaching the milestone when match officials erroneously ruled James Anderson run out to end the England innings.
Neither the procedural error, acknowledged by tournament organisers straight after the match, nor England’s 111-run defeat to the co-hosts will put much of a dent in Taylor’s burgeoning reputation, though.
Described by former skipper Ian Botham as the “shining light” of English batting in the World Cup opener, the 25-year-old came into the tournament on the back of two fine performances against India in the Tri-series.
Batting at number three, Taylor scored an unbeaten 56 to help England over the line in Brisbane and followed that with a brilliant 82 in a match-winning partnership of 125 with Jos Buttler in Perth.
Shifted down the order to number six to allow for the recall of Garry Ballance at first drop for last weekend’s tournament opener, he amply displayed his versatility and street smarts in an impressive 90-ball knock.
“It was tough at the start, he got through that and towards the end he started to show how he could expose anybody with his quality to hit the ball to different places,” England coach Peter Moores told ecb.co.uk.
“It was a really good innings. It’s a shame he didn’t get the hundred in the end of it but he’ll take a lot of confidence from it because (it was a) very big occasion and he fronted up and played very well.”
It was to fill the vacancy at number six in the batting order left by the retirement of Paul Collingwood that Taylor was first mooted as an international player after making his name with a torrent of runs for Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
The nod went to Eoin Morgan instead, though, and Taylor had to wait until 2011 to make his one-day debut, only sealing himself a slot in the World Cup side with a strong series in Sri Lanka last December.
Throughout his career, Taylor has had to battle against those — Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen among them — who feel that at 5ft-6in (1.68m), he is just too small for the international game.
“A big thing that spurs me is proving people wrong, as with my size, naturally I’m going to have plenty of doubters and I’ve proved them wrong over the years and I’ll prove more people wrong in the coming months,” Taylor told Cricinfo last November.
“I can hit the ball just as far as anybody and as cleanly as most, so definitely in my eyes it’s never proved a problem.
“Height I hope has never been an issue. There’s a lot of guys out there that aren’t very tall. I can pack a good punch.”