ENG vs NZ – 2021 – Ross Taylor
Thirteen years since his first Test tour of England, he relishes another opportunity to dominate in the country
Right after his first IPL stint in 2008, where he struck at nearly 184, Ross Taylor went on his first international tour of England and cracked 154 not out off merely 176 balls in the Manchester Test. Daniel Vettori was New Zealand’s captain back then and Chris Martin was still an active cricketer. Thirteen years later, Taylor, now 37, looked back on his first tour and looked ahead to his seventh tour of England.
“It was a strange time,” Taylor recalled at Auckland airport. “I guess a lot of Black Caps were retired and I don’t think I’ve batted at four [before]. So, that was the first time that I batted at four in Test cricket. Being one of the senior batsmen after five Tests was probably something strange.
“Hundred-odd Tests later, [England is] still a great place to play cricket – probably one of the best tours to go on. Obviously being in a bubble is going to be a bit strange. Thirteen years ago, fond memories of that tour and still to date one of the best innings I’ve played in Manchester in the second Test.”
Taylor had sustained a calf strain earlier this month when he was training at the high performance centre in Lincoln. Taylor had also recently suffered a hamstring injury, which disrupted the end of his home summer, but he was confident of his fitness in the lead-up to the two Tests against England and the following World Test Championship (WTC) final against India.
“Obviously you don’t want to have those little niggles and this [calf] niggle came about trying to get the hamstring right,” he said. “It’s part and parcel of being an international cricketer.
“More is made of it when you get older. If you get a calf or a hamstring injury at 32, nothing’s made of it, but when you’re 37, there’s a few more headlines, but it is what it is, and I’m comfortable with where I’m at.”
Taylor was among the second group of New Zealand players – along with Tim Southee, BJ Watling and Neil Wagner – to depart for the UK on Monday afternoon. All players will undergo a hard quarantine of three days inside their hotel rooms upon arrival.
Taylor revealed that it was the first time he had packed his golf clubs for a tour. He could potentially test them out after the quarantine at the Boundary Lakes golf course, which is located inside the Ageas Bowl.
“This is the first time I’ve ever taken golf clubs on a trip,” Taylor said. “The boys were hassling me because the last time I played golf with them, I was taking the plastic off as I was going around.
“It’ll be something different. You’re never too old to try something new, and it will be nice to get some time on your feet after having been in your room for a while.”
Taylor also reckoned Will Young’s twin centuries for Durham against the Dukes Ball in county cricket could create a pleasant selection headache at the top of the order.
Tom Blundell, the incumbent opener, had a rough time against West Indies and Pakistan, but then hit form in the Plunket Shield, scoring back-to-back hundreds. Blundell’s Wellington team-mate Devon Conway, who is uncapped in Test cricket, is also in the opening mix.
“It’s nice to see these guys get an opportunity to play county cricket,” Taylor said of Young. “I guess before the IPL, county cricket was sort of where you cut your teeth in and learned your craft. The way Will has gone over there and got two first-class 100s, I sent him a message last night and said ‘well done’. And I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to joining the team in a few days.
“I guess it just adds another different dimension to the team. I’m sure Steady [coach Gary Stead] and Kane [Williamson] will have an idea of what their team is, but this puts another spanner in the works. I’m sure Will is there or thereabouts. It’s a nice place to be.
The upcoming intra-squad match – Team Latham vs Team Williamson – could help the team management identify the second opener behind Tom Latham. It will also be a chance for Taylor to tune up after recovering from injuries.
“I’ll go [in] Williamson team. They’ll win [laughs]. Obviously with 20 players there and then the IPL guys, a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks,” Taylor said. This was just going to be the guys who went over, where you add the IPL players to the mix I think.
“So that’ll add a little bit more spice. It’ll be nice to get a proper game but playing amongst ourselves is probably not a bad thing as well.”
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo