If there is a batsman in the First Division with something to prove this summer, then it is James Taylor, whose elevation from pint-sized bully of Second Division attacks to Test-class middle-order batsman has not been the smooth transition some of his supporters thought could be taken as read.
Taylor, who joined Nottinghamshire the winter before last after scoring prolifically for Leicestershire, earned a Test call-up in relatively short order when Ravi Bopara withdrew from the second Test against South Africa in August. He did not particularly impress – although it cannot have helped to find himself unwittingly caught up in the accusations levelled at Kevin Pietersen – and though he kept his place for the third Test he was not picked to tour. His omission from the England Performance Squad for this summer, which can be regarded as a reasonable guide to status, looked telling.
His century against Derbyshire here yesterday might, in time, appear to be of minor consequence if the Second Division champions slip into a struggle to survive. If it turns out to be the first of several, though, it could be seen in a different light.
It is a step in the right direction, at least, and Taylor was clearly determined to take it from the moment he resumed from 67 overnight. A little like Shivnarine Chanderpaul – an opponent here – in stature (if not in stance), he took it upon himself to adopt the West Indian’s attitude to protecting his stumps on a pitch on which runs have been largely ground out. He did not hit a boundary until after lunch, having negotiated 77 balls in the first session and only twice chancing more than a single.
When his century arrived – from a false shot, somewhat ironically, that flew off the edge between first and second slips for only his fifth four – it was the slowest of his 14 so far in first-class matches, from 265 balls spanning 14 minutes short of six hours. He shared a stand of 52 with Stuart Broad, but the support he had from Luke Fletcher was equally important in getting him over the line, the big fast bowler hanging around for more than an hour for his unbeaten 19. Broad’s was an eventful knock, as much as a reminder that he can bat as an illustration of Derbyshire’s continuing haplessness in the field. Somehow they managed to drop him three times in the space of five balls before Tim Groenewald at last clung on to a top-edged hook.
The stricken Andre Adams batted with a runner in his last appearance before an anticipated five-week lay-off with a torn calf muscle, and though he could contribute no more than a swing and a nick, Nottinghamshire did finish with a lead of 187.
Derbyshire lost two wickets for 24, and though Chanderpaul gave them hope as he led a stand of 83 with Wayne Madsen, the departure of both in the space of five overs put Nottinghamshire back on top, even with Broad wicketless at that point. And when Samit Patel claimed a fifth wicket for spin, Derbyshire were still 48 behind.