Cricket: Taylor puts team before the record

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A "BRING Back Bradman" campaign Down Under has gathered thousands of signatures demanding that the greatest ever batsman, who turned 90 in August, should be given one last chance to "slay the Poms". But the Australian captain, Mark Taylor, has spared the reclusive Sir Donald a return to the limelight by following in his historic footsteps.

Taylor had equalled the highest Test score by an Australian, Bradman's 334 not out against England at Leeds in 1930, by the close of the second day's play of the Second Test in Peshawar on Friday. But overnight he declared on 599 for 4, denying himself a chance of eclipsing Brian Lara's world record Test score of 375.

"There are two reasons for that," he said. "I want to win a series in the subcontinent, and this is the only way I can be bracketed with Bradman. I have equalled Sir Donald Bradman's record and that is more than satisfying for me."

Victory would ensure Australia's first series win on Pakistan soil since 1959. But his hopes of bowling out Pakistan twice in three days were dashed as Ijaz Ahmed and Saeed Anwar both hit centuries in a 211-run stand for the second wicket. By stumps on the third day Pakistan had made 329 for 2.

They began their daunting task with a dash, Anwar and Aamir Sohail putting on 45 in nine overs before the captain mishooked Glenn McGrath to long leg. But Anwar and Ijaz kept up the tempo on a placid pitch, the former completing his seventh Test century, and second in a row in this series, before the off-spinner Colin Miller had him caught behind for 126. He had hit 18 fours and three sixes in his 226 balls.

Ijaz was dropped on 99, at backward point by Ricky Ponting, before completing his fourth Test century against Australia, and his ninth in all, off 210 balls with 16 fours. By the close he had reached 125.

Sir Donald could not watch Taylor's innings from his home in Adelaide because of poor health, but before play began yesterday, he paid tribute to the man who had equalled his 68-year-old record. "I want to congratulate Mark Taylor on his achievement." he said. "I wish him the very best of luck."

Australia's cricket-loving Prime Minister, John Howard, called to congratulate him. "He has shown great tenacity and durability and it's an admirable response to those who, not so long ago, were saying he was past his best," he said.

Taylor has scattered the vultures who were circling overhead following a string of low scores, just as he did in England last year, when he struck a courageous century in the First Test at Edgbaston.

The Australian coach Geoff Marsh, a long-time opening partner of the man known affectionately as "Tubby", said he had made a great sacrifice for his team. "A lot of the guys wanted him to bat on for his own record but, Tubby being Tubby, and one of the greatest team men of all time, he has put the team before his own record," Marsh said. "That's why he's a great leader."

The former Australian batsman David Hookes echoed the widespread admiration of Taylor, who turns 34 this month: "It sends such a great message to his team and everybody around the world who thinks there's a place for selfish play in sport."