Welcome home: Ross Taylor back from injury scare to continue stellar ODI run
Watching Ross Taylor with a large splint strapped to the fingers on his left hand, you'd give him minimal chance of returning 'home' to McLean Park to face India on Wednesday.
New Zealand's premier one-day international batsman will be there, he confirmed, despite suffering a double dislocation of the little finger while fielding in the Twenty20 against Sri Lanka in Auckland. It was clicked back into place and x-rays revealed no fracture but it was a few days before he could grip a bat.
Taylor underwent his first net session since, in Napier on Monday, and after a lengthy hit pronounced himself fit. He even caused an injury scare for Craig McMillan when he fizzed one back, off the net frame and smack onto the batting coach's shin, to a mixture of sympathy and mirth.
"It's fine. It looks a lot sorer than it is… no break but the ligaments were a bit sore," said Taylor.
Which is a relief for Taylor and New Zealand, ahead of this much-awaited five-match ODI series against the world's No 2 side set to begin under forecast sunny skies and 30degC temperatures.
The 34-year-old returns to the scene of his 2006 ODI debut against West Indies in the form of his life, having become the first New Zealander to reach 20 ODI centuries against Sri Lanka in Nelson.
Since the start of 2018 Taylor averages a mind-boggling 92 from 13 ODI innings, bettered only by - you guessed it - India's skipper Virat Kohli who averages 113 in the same period. Kohli and team arrived in Napier on Monday morning fresh from their 2-1 series win over Australia and cancelled their scheduled afternoon training.
Said Taylor of his winning formula: "I've played a few internationals now and understand my role in the team. I've worked on my game and try and rotate the strike early and be as busy as I can. Different shots against spinners at different stages have maybe evolved my game in a positive way.
"But you're still human and you still have to start again, and it's exciting against India."
Kohli is human, too, and Taylor said there was a danger of being too obsessed with one batsman. Australian quick Jhye Richardson found a way, removing Kohli three times from as many innings as he scored three, 104 and 46.
"He's a sensational player, the best one-day player going around, easily. It's easy to get caught up in him. You've got two pretty good openers at the top, Sharma and Dhawan, before he gets in."
Exciting, too, back on familiar turf in Napier which will host its first ODI in almost four years since the 2015 World Cup.
After the washout debacle against Australia two years ago, the ground's owner Napier City Council had to act. It spent $5 million on a turf re-lay and drainage overhaul, leaving the wicket block largely intact.
A natural pitch rather than the work-in-progress drop-in will be used on Wednesday after two domestic Twenty20 runfests on the nearby strip. With Taylor resting his injured finger last Friday his team the Stags plundered 225-3 off 20 overs and his Black Caps team-mate Tom Latham's 110 off 60 balls wasn't enough to get Canterbury home.
Some big scores beckon on what Taylor was told would be an even harder, bouncier surface.
"It always holds a special place for me. I made my debut here and got my first ODI hundred [against Sri Lanka in 2006]. It's nice to play in front of family and friends and it's been a while."
Even if one, father Neil, won't be there. One of Taylor's biggest fans and regular attendee will miss the trip from Wairarapa to undergo hernia surgery. "Dad's a bit gutted. He rang the surgeon and tried to get it moved but he couldn't."