James Taylor stakes claim for England Test place with ability to play spin

Batsman showed off 'gritty' innings to get to century

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The Independent Online

There were several reasons to be grateful for England’s much-needed win in Manchester. For starters it ended a run of seven consecutive one-day defeats at the hands of Australia and kept alive this summer’s series as the teams head to Headingley for the fourth ODI.

Since limited-overs cricket now occupies a much more esteemed place in the minds of administrators, selectors and players, if not yet the more doctrinaire spectators, that should be cause enough for satisfaction. But there was more, and presumably to the delight of the latter category it involves Test cricket.

The batting of James Taylor and the bowling of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid on a turning pitch at Old Trafford offered some encouragement for the tour of the UAE which starts next month. There, England will play Pakistan on surfaces that will be slow and dry, offering spin bowlers a reason for existence.

In some ways, it is the most daunting of all England’s five Test series this year, which  involve 17 matches. Pakistan are heavily favoured to win comfortably, and although events in the third one-day international hardly changed that perception irrevocably, there was a small hint, no more as yet, that Pakistan will not necessarily dominate from start to finish.

Taylor’s century demanded vigilance and patience against Australia’s spinners and while Ashton Agar, in his first ODI, and Glenn Maxwell hardly conjured the threat that the more exotic Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar might pose in the desert, he was impressively measured in all he did.

He certainly saw it as an audition. “People have seen over the last few years that I have got a lot to offer, especially in one-day cricket, but I think that was a nice little reminder of what I can do on a turning pitch,” said Taylor, whose 101 made him the man of the match and played an instrumental part in England’s 93-run victory which brought them to 2-1 down in the series with two to play.

“It wasn’t easy to score off the slower bowlers, with conditions similar to what we’re going to have in the winter in the UAE. I’m desperate to get back in the Test side and I know we’ll be playing on similar wickets against some good spin bowlers.”

Taylor’s innings contained only five fours, the lowest percentage of boundaries in any of the 128 hundreds made for England in one-day internationals. But there were also 46 singles, 11 twos and four threes. “My legs certainly felt it,” he said. “It was gritty.”

“I had plenty of demons on my shoulder, wanting to play a few more big shots, but I knew the situation I was in kind of dictated the way I played.”

Perhaps as encouraging for England was the bowling of Moeen and Rashid with conditions in their favour. They were accurate, turned the ball and disconcerted batsman who were anxious to attack them, and they had joint figures of 5 for 73.

It was only the sixth time in an ODI in England that a pair of spinners combined to take five wickets – and the fourth at Old Trafford, that well-known desert dust bowl.