WELLINGTON, (Reuters) – Ross Taylor’s last innings against Bangladesh should have been a celebration for the 31-year-old right hander.
He became the fourth New Zealand batsman to surpass 5,000 ODI runs in his innings of 56 and the fastest to achieve the milestone, needing 144 innings to reach the figure, three faster than Nathan Astle.
Instead, many people pointed to the uncharacteristically pedestrian nature in which he achieved the runs in Friday’s three-wicket win.
The normally aggressive and fluent Taylor needed 82 balls to reach 50 and added just another six runs in 15 deliveries before he was trapped in front by Nasir Hossain attempting a slog sweep to deep mid-wicket – a shot considered a weakness that he had all but eradicated earlier in his career.
Taylor’s half century, the 30th of his career, was his highest score in the tournament having accumulated just 53 runs in his previous five innings, though two of those were just to finish off a small run chase.
Prior to the World Cup, Taylor had looked to be back to the form of 12 months ago when he scored successive centuries against India then scored another in December against Pakistan in UAE to become just the fifth man to score three consecutive ODI tons.
He also scored 96 against Sri Lanka in Dunedin in January and then 59 not out and 102 not out – his 12th ODI century – against Pakistan in two matches immediately before the tournament.
Brendon McCullum said prior to the tournament he would not swap his 3-4 punch of Kane Williamson and Taylor for any other combination in the world and the pair were seen as crucial cogs in New Zealand’s quest for their first World Cup title.
Fans and cricket writers, however, have been left scratching their heads at Taylor’s seeming loss of confidence during the World Cup.
He has not looked comfortable starting his innings, jumping around the crease and flailing his bat outside off to deliveries that ordinarily he would let go, while he has struggled with his timing even after getting settled.
Some of the problems could be attributed to the fact New Zealand’s bowlers have put them in such strong positions and the belligerent attitude of McCullum at the top of the order means Taylor has not had the time in the middle, something team mate Grant Elliott suggested yesterday.
“The middle order really hasn’t had a go,” the 35-year-old said ahead of New Zealand’s quarter-final with West Indies today.
“We had a good go in the Sri Lanka and Pakistan series but the bowlers have been exceptional and we haven’t had to chase too many.”
Elliot, who comes in at five immediately behind Taylor, was also convinced his team mate was tracking along nicely ahead of the quarter-final against West Indies in Wellington on Saturday.
“I think Ross has been in really good form,” he added.
“The last game, he played an innings, yeah he faced a lot of balls but he played an innings that got us ready for the quarter-finals.
“The way he is striking the ball in the nets he has been striking it fairly sweetly.
“He is a world class player and he is someone to be feared in the coming rounds.”