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Ross Taylor's partnerships for New Zealand

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Ross_Taylor_New_Zealand_Cricket_ODIOn the eve of his birthday, Ross Taylor showed the world, in the most exceptional way, that there are very few players like him in ODI cricket at the moment. If people doubted him a few months back, the same people have now accepted that the New Zealand cricket team is incomplete without him. Just after Taylor reached his 19th century in the fourth ODI against England on Wednesday, he suffered an injury while diving to finish a second run.

The team's physio made multiple trips to the field to check upon Taylor, maybe even tried to convince him not to play further. But the veteran, almost 34, could not be persuaded. Literally playing on one leg, Taylor led New Zealand's successful chase of 366 runs. Since his injury did not allow him to convert the 1s into 2s, he took the high road. He launched a monster hit every now and then: his school hockey once again helped him with his favorite slog sweep shots. He would swing his arms to over long-on as he smashed the ball further and further. As his legs gradually began to give up, his game turned more intense and that hurt the opposition the most.

In total, Taylor struck 6 sixes and 17 fours. For the New Zealanders in the University Oval Stadium, the sight was a treat to watch – Vintage Taylor.

 

No player better knew what it was like playing under the shadow of a teammate than Rahul Dravid; then came Taylor. Ever since he took his first footsteps into international cricket in 2006, Taylor has never been considered the No. 1 batsman of his country. Mostly because of his consistency issues. However, with the recent U-turn he has taken in his career with the bat, it can be safely said now that he is as important as his skipper Kane Williamson. Losing either of the two can cause a huge void in the team that would be difficult to cover.

 

In his last 10 ODIs, Williamson has scored two half-centuries and as many hundreds. Taylor has recorded two tons and three fifties in his previous 10 ODI innings, including three unbeaten knocks. Last year, New Zealand made the move of pushing Tom Latham down into the middle-order and replacing him at the top with Colin Munro. This has worked out wonderfully for the BlackCaps. Taylor comes to bat after Williamson and before Latham. So far, the veteran has managed to strike well with both his teammates.

Partnerships are crucial to the success of a batting side. A good partnership is enough to turn the tables and two or three well established stands can comfortably win the match. But in order to make a successful partnership, both batsmen are required to complement and help each other along the way. The Dunedin ODI was just another example of New Zealand's treasured ability to foster partnerships in ODIs. Taylor stitched together fine batting stands with Williamson and Latham. Those two partnerships changed the course of the game.

 

Since 2014, Williamson and Taylor are the second most successful pair in ODIs, making 2,479 runs at 61.97 with 10 century stands and as many fifty partnerships. In the Dunedin match, the two began their stand when New Zealand had lost their openers for a duck each. Just when England thought they would seal the match and series, Taylor started to mend the damage.

 

The two went on to share an 84-run stand before Williamson underwent a controversial dismissal. He was given out caught behind, but replays showed there was no contact with the bat. However, Colin Munro had reviewed a plumb LBW earlier so the New Zealand captain could not challenge the on-field umpire's decision.

In their third wicket stand, while Williamson contributed a run a ball 43, Taylor was getting started with 40 off 38 balls. This was followed by the arrival of Latham at the crease. Ever since Latham was pushed to the middle-order, he has struck up some fine stands with Taylor. Since 2014, Latham and Taylor are New Zealand's fourth-most successful ODI pair with 1,125 runs at an average of 75, including three century stands and five fifty-run stands.

New Zealand management tried the "Latham in the middle-order" experiment ahead of the bilateral series in India in 2017 and it bore fruit in the very first match. Virat Kohli's century set New Zealand a target of 281 in the opening ODI. The first three Kiwi batsmen were dismissed with 80 runs on the board, leaving Taylor and Latham at the crease. The two registered a record 200-run partnership for the fourth wicket that led them to win the match.

Taylor and Latham's stand was the highest for any visiting pair against India in India while chasing. In that match, Taylor got dismissed on 95 but in Dunedin, he ensured the match would always be remembered for him and his game-changing partnerships that kept New Zealand's chances alive throughout the chase.

If you look at New Zealand's partnership records since 2014, four of the top 10 most prolific partnerships feature one name - Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor. The pair of Williamson and Taylor top the list, followed by Taylor-Latham, Taylor-Martin Guptill and Taylor-Grant Elliott. Some 15 months ago, Taylor's very survival in international cricket was being questioned. While he struggled with an eye infection, people assumed he was nearing career’s end.

Taylor underwent a surgery towards the end of 2016 and resumed his national duties from January of 2017. Ever since his return, he performed to his fullest potential for the first time in his career. He has conquered the consistency issues and his numbers in the last year or so have suggested that Taylor has touched form at the perfect time. With the 2019 World Cup approaching, New Zealand side will require their senior-most batsman to keep stitching these crucial stands on regular basis.

 

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