Taylor stakes his claim
James Taylor pressed his case to take the injured Kevin Pietersen’s place in the Investec Tests with New Zealand, although he narrowly missed out on a second ton in two LV= County Championship innings.
Taylor, on the day he was named in the England Lions XI to face the tourists, held Nottinghamshire’s faltering innings together with a resolute 97 versus Durham at Trent Bridge.
At 98 for four, the hosts were in danger of regretting their decision bat first. However, Taylor shared stands of 111 with the recalled Steven Mullaney and 84 alongside Stuart Broad.
Taylor, whose two Tests came against South Africa last summer, has already improved on his first championship season with Notts in terms of landmarks. His hundred at Derby last week matched his one in 2012 and today his second fifty of 2013 doubled his tally last year.
After this game, Taylor’s only first-class match before the opening New Zealand Test will be for the Lions at Grace Road. He is set to play alongside Graham Onions, who would have gained a better return for his impressive bowling today had Ben Stokes done better at slip.
Stokes, who took 3-58, dropped Ed Cowan, Mullaney and Broad on single-figure scores. The trio went on to make 40, 80 and 46 respectively.
Broad’s departure came as Notts lost their last four wickets for 13 runs to be dismissed for 320, which Durham replied to with 34 for the loss of Mark Stoneman.
Notts made three changes from last week’s win over Derbyshire: Graeme Swann, playing for the first time since having elbow surgery, Ajmal Shahzad and Mullaney came in for Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney and Andre Adams, the latter out with a calf injury.
Durham, who were in the field all day on Saturday as they lost to Yorkshire, showed two alterations with Callum Thorp and Keaton Jennings making way for Mark Wood and Gareth Breese, given his maiden championship appearance for almost three years.
Cowan, who clipped the day’s first ball to the backward square-leg rope, enjoyed a life later in the over without addition when Stokes shelled a regulation chance to his right at third slip.
Cowan progressed swiftly, in part through several sweet cover-drives but, with cloud cover blown in by a stiff wind, Onions snared both openers in three individual overs. Alex Hales, normally an attacking batsman, shouldered arms to go lbw for an untypical 22-delivery two. Cowan, who scored at almost a run a ball, fell to a stunning catch from Will Smith above his head at gully in a wicket-maiden.
Stokes was twice pulled for boundaries amid three consecutive Taylor fours. However the seamer struck in his next over, trapping Michael Lumb lbw with a yorker. Like England Twenty20 opening partner Hales, Lumb’s innings was curiously slow in occupying 37 balls.
Samit Patel announced himself with back-to-back fours off Wood and had been going well until he looped a Stokes long-hop to point. Patel’s departure for 17 heralded lunch.
Soon after the interval Stokes shelled his second chance off Onions, this time Mullaney surviving on six from a tougher opportunity as Stokes dived to his right from second slip. Mullaney responded with a flurry of fours. The most eye-catching was a flicked one-bounce boundary off Chris Rushworth through midwicket that came in an over featuring a close leg-before appeal.
Taylor and Mullaney shared a smooth fifty partnership, which soon grew to three figures. By then the latter’s half-century had come from 68 balls via his 10th four. Shortly before Taylor’s fifty arrived, Mullaney clouted Breese for two consecutive sixes down the ground.
Not long after, Wood broke through by tempting Mullaney into edging to Breese at second slip. Read perished similarly in Wood’s next over, Stokes somewhat making amends for his earlier spills with a sharp slip catch.
However, Stokes was again involved as another chance went begging in the next when Broad was reprieved on one. Broad responded by pulling Wood for six but then was shelled by Smith at gully. Both were tough chances.
Broad upped the ante after tea with four fours in a Wood over, the first three from consecutive balls including a sweet punch through the covers.
Taylor found regular boundaries of his own and Broad smote Breese for six to long-on before both fell just short of milestones. Taylor pushed defensively at Breese and was caught behind. Broad edged Stokes to Breese at slip for 46 to make it two wickets in as many deliveries.
With the second new ball taken at the earliest opportunity, Rushworth had Shahzad caught behind, to gain maximum bowling points, and Luke Fletcher held in the deep.
Stoneman took Broad for three fours in the reply’s first over and found three more before being trapped in front for 30 by Shahzad in a wicket-maiden. Smith and nightwatchman Rushworth were in situ at stumps with Swann yet to bowl.