New Zealand~~s form Taylor-made for World Cup

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Wellington:The decisive manner in which New Zealand thrashed Australia this month has put the spotlight on a shy Ross Taylor who is being hailed as the new saviour of New Zealand cricket.

New Zealand has never been known for consistency and have traditionally relied on spasmodic standout performances to hover in the top half of the world rankings.

But there is no doubting that performances have improved across the board in the past month coinciding with Taylor's growing time at the crease.

The 22-year-old part-Samoan doesn't say much, he prefers to let his bat do the talking and in less than a year on the world stage the right-hander is averaging 42 from 15 outings.

But it was a slow start, and less than six months ago he couldn't make the New Zealand team for the Champions Trophy.

Such was the dismal top-order batting there, however, Taylor's revival was a formality and he hasn't looked back.

In the second match of the Australian series this month, he led New Zealand to a record-breaking win and their first Chappell-Hadlee series title.

With incredible hand-eye co-ordination, he smashed 117 - his second century of the season after his maiden against Sri Lanka - to transform an unlikely chase for 337 into one of New Zealand's most memorable triumphs.

The Black Caps now go to the Caribbean desperate to prove their victories over Australia were not an aberration.

But after a history of stunning wins entwined with inexplicable failures, captain Stephen Fleming knows not to be too confident.

"We are excited but we want to be become a consistent side," he said.

"We'll continue to be the dark horses in every tournament if we go up and down."

With a small talent pool to call on, the New Zealand team largely selected itself although the trick for coach John Bracewell was getting the right balance of batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders.

Backing Taylor in the batting ranks are the resurgent Lou Vincent and Fleming while Craig McMillan and Peter Fulton are likely to be battling for the remaining spot once injured all-rounder Jacob Oram is cleared to play again.

Oram, who broke his ring finger against Australia, is expected to miss New Zealand's first World Cup game against England but will be available after that.

The bowling ranks centre around Shane Bond, one of the finest strike bowlers in world cricket but with an unfortunate history of injuries.

If Bond does break down again, there is broad back up with Mark Gillespie, who has come on strongly this season, James Franklin, Michael Mason, Daryl Tuffey, Oram, and spinners Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel.

McMillan and Scott Styris are also capable of covering any emergency in the bowling department.

If there are any doubts, they are over the recall of Tuffey at the expense of Chris Martin or Chris Harris to replace the injured Kyle Mills.

Tuffey's return to the international field after a two year absence has been underwhelming and in his second comeback match against Australia he conceded 80 off his 10 overs.

During New Zealand's variable run of form from the Champions Trophy in October through to the recent tri-series in Australia, Fleming's captaincy and Bracewell's coaching attracted a lot of criticism in New Zealand.

But when Taylor hit form, and the team performed with distinction, the criticism stopped.

"We're doing nothing differently than we were a couple of weeks ago, and that's what I've been trying to explain over the past month," Fleming said after the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy was wrapped up.

But the difference was that New Zealand were now winning and the tide had turned in time for the World Cup.


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