Ross Taylor had made his T20I debut in December 2006 in Wellington along with the likes of Peter McGlashan, Chaminda Vaas, and Muttiah Muralitharan. Nearly 14 years later, in Mount Maunganui, Taylor became only the second New Zealander, after Suzie Bates, to feature in 100 T20Is. After receiving a special cap from his good mate Martin Guptill, the 35-year old marked the occasion with a half-century, studded by three successive signature hockey-swiped boundaries in a 34-run over off allrounder Shivam Dube. Some of those blows had his family, who were at the Bay Oval, up on their feet.
However, Taylor himself was at the heart of a dramatic collapse – 6 for 25 – as New Zealand lost another game from a seemingly winning position. He admitted that the defeat indeed soured the landmark and looked back at how T20 cricket has evolved from being a bit hit-and-giggle to a “pretty serious competition”.
“It’s still sinking in,” Taylor said at the post-match press conference. “Disappointing with the series [loss] and the way things have gone, but nice to be the first one [NZ men’s cricketer] to get there [100 T20Is]. Hopefully, in time, Guppy and co. will surpass me and will set the benchmark. When I first played Twenty20 cricket, we used to play one game and think it would be a warm-up for the one-dayers whereas it has turned into a pretty serious competition. But, no, it was evolved greatly and it’s a honour and privilege to be the first one for New Zealand.”
In 2017, after the T20 World Cup in India, where Taylor had managed just 91 runs in five innings, he had been dropped from the side. The then-coach Mike Hesson explained that the players on the fringe were putting too much pressure on Taylor.
Taylor has been largely out of favour in various T20 leagues around the world since the previous T20 World Cup, but is now back in the New Zealand middle order as they search for some stability. While Taylor did hit a brace of fifties against India, he was dismissed in the last over in regulation time before both the Super-Over finishes in Hamilton and Wellington.
The trend continued in Mount Maunganui. After New Zealand had lost Guptill and Colin Munro cheaply in pursuit of 164, Taylor and Tim Seifert teed up 99 together off 56 balls. When New Zealand needed 66 off 60 balls, with eight wickets in hand, the game was within their grasp. However, Saini took down both the set batsmen while Jasprit Bumrah yorked Daryl Mitchell and Tim Southee to seal a 5-0 whitewash.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve been there to Bangladesh a couple of times and you lose a couple of times… Different players deal with it in different ways and in saying that it’s probably a good thing that this series is over and we move onto a different format,” Taylor said.
One of the positives for New Zealand in an otherwise horror series has been Seifert’s form in front of the stumps and also behind it. After struggling to finish the innings in the early half of the series, he moved up the order in the injury-enforced absence of Kane Williamson and struck back-to-back half-centuries.
On Sunday, he unveiled a variety of strokes, including the slog-sweep and his favourite scoop over the shoulder. He had also briefly looked good against Bumrah when he took a blameless back-of-a-length ball from middle stump and swatted it away, bisecting wide long-on and deep midwicket in the 12th over of the chase. Taylor was pleased with Seifert’s progress and said that he will have to learn to adapt to batting outside the top three once Williamson returns from injury.
“For him, he has taken his opportunity with Kane not going,” Taylor said of Seifert. “When Kane does come back, him batting at No.4 or wherever he ends up batting, he has got to learn that role and put pressure on the incumbents. I thought he batted well and it would’ve been nice if we had held in a little bit longer, but I’ve played 100 games and there have been what-ifs throughout my career. Not only with the bat, but with the gloves, and the way he patrols the outfield with the angles, he’s getting better and better each day.”
Since the innings victory in the Mount Maunganui Test against England last November, New Zealand have been winless in nine matches across formats. Taylor, though, hoped that a switch in format to one-day cricket could switch up New Zealand’s fortunes. Taylor himself has been in stellar form in 50-overs, averaging 63.56 since the 2015 World Cup. Only India captain Virat Kohli has better figures among batsmen with more than 1000 runs in this period.
New Zealand will also welcome back allrounders Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme for the three-match ODI series, which begins in Hamilton on February 5. Neesham, in particular, has been in excellent domestic form, having won the 20-over Super Smash with Wellington Firebirds and bagged career-best List A figures of 5 for 29 in the Ford Trophy.
“Even though it’s a different format, it [losing] still does hurt,” Taylor said. “Winning is a habit…and losing all those tight games. We’re going into a format that’s probably one of strengths and when we do come back to play Twenty20 cricket and Test cricket, those wounds would be addressed. Now, one-day cricket, hopefully Kane’s shoulder is alright, new personnel and some world-class to come back and we look forward to have them back in the squad.”