Black Monday sows a golden harvest

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The Independent Online

When dawn broke, Monday 17 May was just another day as far as Zak Taylor and the rest of the nation was concerned. But by dusk it was being regarded as cricket's Black Monday, with the England captain injured. And Taylor was held responsible - although yesterday came exoneration, thanks to the man who replaced Michael Vaughan.

When dawn broke, Monday, 17 May, was just another day as far as Zak Taylor and the rest of the nation was concerned. But by dusk it was being regarded as cricket's Black Monday, with the England captain injured. And Taylor was held responsible ­ although yesterday came exoneration, thanks to the man who replaced Michael Vaughan.

On that May morning Taylor, an occasional player with the MCC Young Cricketers, had been instructed to join a batch of young bowlers in the Nursery End nets to bowl at the England squad. And for much of the time things went smoothly, with the England batsmen's appetite for practice being well served by the young aspirants.

Then came that moment, that ball. It was the moment the left-arm spinner came to bowl at Vaughan.

"It wasn't anything special," said Taylor, 20. "It was nothing to do with the ball, even though everyone said it was. But it wasn't, not really, because it was not an awkward delivery. In fact, it was a full-pitched ball. He just slipped and fell. And when he stood up his knee went. When he went down he was laughing." But Vaughan was not laughing when he got to his feet. And nor were the England selectors.

"I must admit I thought he would be OK for the Test match. I certainly wasn't worried when he went down. But I took a lot of stick for the next week."

But that fateful delivery introduced a batting phenomenon. His name was Andrew Strauss and he marked his Test debut with a hundred in the first innings and 83 in the second. England went on to beat New Zealand, and yesterday the Middlesex captain was at it again. He underlined his immense talent with his second Test century of the summer, scored, once again, on his home ground of Lord's. When he reached three figures Strauss dropped into a press-up position and briefly kissed the hallowed turf, and Taylor was just as delighted. After all he had had a hand, so to speak, in events.

"Strauss has been fantastic hasn't he?" a relieved Taylor said. "Top drawer today." And now Vaughan is back, and Taylor can afford himself a smile. And it looks as if cricket's Black Monday can be consigned to the shredder. Thursday, 22 July, has taken over as a special day.

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