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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 : Classy Ross Taylor Carries New Zealand Once More

Picture : Twitter / cricketworldcup
Picture : Twitter / cricketworldcup

Ross Taylor became the third New Zealander after Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori to play 400 internationals across all formats and celebrated with a match-winning 82 in a nail-biter at The Oval.

New Zealand’s two-wicket victory with 17 balls completed a see-sawing encounter that was the closest game of the tournament so far.

But the outcome could have been all so different had Bangladesh wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim successfully run out Kane Williamson rather than knocking the bails off with his elbow as he gathered Tamim Iqbal’s throw from mid-on with the Black Caps skipper well short of the crease.

That would have left New Zealand 61/3 in the 12th over with one of the world’s great batsmen back in the pavilion.

And it would have left Taylor, who called his captain for the run despite Williamson’s obvious reticence, with a hefty responsibility to rescue a tricky situation.

Instead, Williamson survived to share in a vital 105-run stand with Taylor, the 13th time this pair of world-class performers have put up three figures together.

The Black Caps still required the calm head of Mitchell Santner to see them over the line but without Taylor’s contribution they might never have made it.

Of Taylor’s 400 internationals for the Black Caps, Williamson has been in the same line-up 214 times but even though they must know each other’s games inside out, they have still been involved in seven run-outs in Tests and ODIs.

There was further drama in the running between wickets department at the end of the 34th over when Jimmy Neesham, on nought, got in by a fraction after a direct hit from square leg while Taylor scampered to the non-striker’s end.

In a team so routinely under-estimated, Williamson is the highest profile batsman leaving Taylor to fly even more unjustifiably under the radar.

Since the last ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2015, Taylor, who underwent surgery to remove a growth on his left eye in late 2016, has scored 2,974 runs at an average of 70 – only Virat Kohli, with 77, averages more.

His strike-rate of 87 is lower than the world’s other leading batsmen over the past four years but the requirement against Bangladesh was for calmness and experience, of which Taylor, in his fourth World Cup, has plenty.

He also likes this opposition and this venue. In his previous ODI innings against Bangladesh at Dunedin in February he made an unbeaten 69 and followed that up with his third Test double hundred at Wellington. In the course of his knock at The Oval, he passed 1,000 ODI runs against Bangladesh.

His previous two innings at The Oval had been 71 against India in a World Cup warm-up match and 64 for Middlesex against their cross-London rivals Surrey in England’s 50-over domestic competition.

That spell playing for Middlesex proved successful for Taylor, who tuned up nicely in English conditions, and for the county, who reached the knock-out stages of the one-day competition for the first time in a decade.

The partnership between Taylor and Williamson was the only time in the match that The Oval crowd – a sea of Bangladesh red and green – fell silent.

‘Tigers Roar’ read one of the banners in the crowd and it was not wrong. The Oval was a sea of red and green, a packed house whose passion and decibel levels would not have been out of place in Dhaka or Chittagong.

Apart from a supporter dressed as a Kiwi, New Zealand support was hard to find. A lone cry of ‘Ki-wi, Ki-wi’ tried vainly to compete with the full-throated chants of ‘Bangladesh, Bangladesh’.

There cannot have been a stuffed tiger left in the toy shops of London – they were all at The Oval in the arms of Bangladesh fans either being held aloft in celebration or grabbed tight in hope.

Every run and New Zealand wicket was greeted with a wave of noise that could be heard well beyond the confines of Kennington.

Likewise, on the odd occasion that Shakib came to field on the boundary’s edge, the crowd rose as one to salute their hero.

But sadly for Shakib, and his fans, his 200th one-day international ended in glorious but heart-breaking defeat.

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Picture : Twitter/ cricketworldcup

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