Taylor slams 154 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 25, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 25, 2008

Taylor slams 154

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New Zealand dominated the second day's play at Old Trafford with Ross Taylor's magnificent 154 providing the backbone behind a solid first innings of 381. Taylor was given excellent lower-order assistance from Kyle Mills, whose Test-best 57 ensured New Zealand seized momentum in an enthralling seventh-wicket stand of 89. For England, the wheels hadn't so much fallen off as rolled into a neighbouring village.
Village is roughly the standard some of England's fielders reached, too, during a careless, panicky afternoon session. Shies missed the stumps; overthrows weren't backed up and even Michael Vaughan, the calmest of captains, flustered with his field-settings. None of this degrades the sheer class of Taylor's hundred - his second in Tests and the highest by a New Zealander at Old Trafford.
Some of England's tactics were, at best, confusing. Monty Panesar - who turned it square yesterday - was delayed from entering the attack, as was James Anderson who Jacob Oram struggled against yesterday afternoon. In fact Anderson didn't bowl until 30 minutes before lunch, and it wasn't due to outstanding bowling from Ryan Sidebottom or Stuart Broad. With a strong wind blowing across the ground, Taylor was immediately into his stride with a short-arm bunt through extra cover followed by an audacious cover drive right out of the textbook.
Oram continued to struggle, however, never resembling a batsman fresh from a Lord's hundred last week. Broad persisted in peppering him with bouncers from around the wicket and Oram responded by swaying, ducking and weaving out of the way, but never was he comfortable. Once Panesar was belatedly introduced, Oram took him on with a skip down the pitch but Panesar beat him in the flight, the ball circling above Anderson at mid-on. He flunked a relatively easy chance, labouring after the ball and failing to even get a hand on it.
But, remarkably, Oram gifted his wicket four runs later when, on 38, he too laboured when Taylor called him through for a single to point. Alastair Cook - whose fielding has improved beyond sight since the Bambi-like figure who debuted two years ago - swooped, threw down the stumps and Oram was a foot short. Worse was to come, however. Two balls later, Daniel Vettori ambled through for a single - as though on a Sunday jog - but failed to ground his bat, and Panesar's throw was sufficiently straight for Tim Ambrose to whip off the bails in time. Vettori's foot was airborne, and so were England's ecstatic fielders. New Zealand had slipped to 250 for 6 in the blink of an eye.
Taylor needed a partner, and Mills responded. A streaky edge off Sidebottom was followed by a mow off Panesar over midwicket to slate his thirst. Another carved four off Sidebottom took him past his previous Test-best of 31 before he matched Taylor's own elegance with two classical off-drives. England's disciplined bowling yesterday was nowhere to be seen and - poor run-outs or not - New Zealand were taking toll.
Taylor's hundred came from 130 balls as Anderson was finally introduced half-an-hour before lunch, forcing him off the back foot through extra cover as he and Mills' fifty partnership was registered in just 72 balls. Taylor expanded and flourished after lunch, moving from 100 to 150 in 42 breathless balls, smacking four fours and four sixes, the last of which sailed into the top tier of the stand at midwicket. Vaughan was left flummoxed, as depicted by an awful shy at the stumps which missed by several feet, handing five overthrows. Broad matched that effort with a similarly hapless attempt in the next over off Sidebottom, and the same fielder - now stationed at deep midwicket - failed to cling onto a Taylor mow, parrying it over the rope. Sidebottom's apoplectic rage could be heard ringing around Manchester as New Zealand ran England ragged.
Mills finally fell to Anderson, chopping on, and despite rumours Daniel Flynn might have come in at No.10, his horrific injury yesterday prevented him from doing so. New Zealand's excellent day continued just before tea when Iain O'Brien, replacing Tim Southee for this Test, produced an 82mph offbreak to wrap Cook in front. Replays suggested the batsman had every right to grumble, but the momentum remained with New Zealand.

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