Taylor a positive in NZ's batting nightmare

BRIGHT SPOT: Ross Taylor's improvement has been the only good thing about the Black Caps' batting.
BRIGHT SPOT: Ross Taylor's improvement has been the only good thing about the Black Caps' batting.

Ross Taylor might have thought his days explaining away New Zealand batting collapses were over.

Instead the former skipper faced the media on consecutive nights in Leeds after 16 New Zealand wickets tumbled in little over 24 hours at Headingley.

It wasn’t by design. In the absence of any star performer on day three of the second test as New Zealand lost 9-70 in their first innings, Taylor was put forward as a senior batsman to discuss the collapse.

Yesterday he grafted for 159 minutes for 70 and earned a badge of honour from England paceman Steven Finn in the form of three bruises clustered together on his upper right arm that team-mates said looked like a quirky new tattoo.

Taylor stood out but lacked crucial support, again, as New Zealand teetered at 158-6, still 310 short of their target with a day remaining and rain forecast.

The batting horrors continue.

‘‘It just comes down to individual application. If you can look at yourself and say you gave yourself the best chance… cricket’s a tough game and you nick off every now and then but as a batting unit we’ve got to be a lot tougher on ourselves. We’ve let ourselves down in the last three innings,’’ was Taylor’s verdict.

Captain Brendon McCullum’s take, and that of coach Mike Hesson, will follow in coming days.

It’s been painful to watch the New Zealand batsmen flail and fail against pace, swing and spin, some techniques not up the challenge and spirits deflating fast.

Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie were at least removed by brutal deliveries whilst Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill were deceived by Graeme Swann’s spin, a familiar problem which New Zealand still can’t solve.

The only consolation is the white ball game is imminent, the first ODI at Lord’s on Friday where new personnel arrive in a format New Zealand are much more comfortable in.

Taylor, at least, seems to be back on track with the three ODIs against England then the Champions Trophy looming next month.

It’s taken a while for the old Taylor to return. He clearly wasn’t himself through the home series with the captaincy controversy and the spotlight on his ‘‘work in progress’’ relationship with coach Hesson and unhappiness in the team environment. Then after a lean run in the IPL he arrived in England and declared himself officially over the subject and ready to move on.

His breezy 66 in the first test at Lord’s was timely; then after a first innings thunderbolt from Finn, Taylor dug in at Headingley to try and stave off defeat.

It was absorbing viewing as Taylor was positive and showed sound judgement against the turning ball from Swann, playing back and getting outside the line to cover the turn. When Swann overpitched he pounced, cover driving from the text book.

He took Finn’s 145kmh bouncers on the body, was struck amidships but gritted his teeth, his mind seemingly unburdened.

‘‘In recent times I’ve thought about technique a lot more and I just wanted to go out there and play. Wherever the hands and feet went, I’ve probably been concentrating on that a bit too much. When you’re doing that, you’re making batting a lot harder than it really is. That’s all I did, go out and play straight and play with some instinct and I felt pretty comfortable.’’

He kicked himself for his dismissal, playing over the top of another full delivery from Swann. Two overs later, the umpires called play off for the day in fading light.

Taylor and Brownlie added 79 in 97 minutes in what appeared even gloomier conditions earlier.

‘‘It was pretty dark when Dean and myself were out there but towards the end it did lighten up. There’s no lights like Lord’s and their players kept reminding me of that.’’

Fairfax Media