Taylor ready for Headingley test
James Taylor chose to challenge himself when he made Trent Bridge his home ground last winter, and his Test debut is set to come at a similarly daunting location for batsmen: Headingley Carnegie.
The diminutive 22-year-old right-hander joined Nottinghamshire from Leicestershire in December, stepping up to Division One of the LV= County Championship for the first time.
Taylor has gradually made himself at home in the top flight, now averaging over 40 in this year's championship thanks to a timely season’s best of 163 not out versus Sussex in Nottingham this week.
Although that is some way below a career first-class average of nearly 50, this term’s wet weather has played its part in his slow start to the championship campaign.
Like Trent Bridge, Headingley traditionally favours seam bowlers, and South Africa - England’s opponents in Leeds from Thursday - have three of the best in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
Having made the transition to Division One, Taylor - whose senior England experience is a single one-day international versus Ireland last August - believes he is ready for the rigours of the five-day game.
"Test cricket is the pinnacle, but there was a noticeable step up to Division One of the championship and wickets haven't been easy to bat on this season," he said.
"I've always backed myself to play at the highest level and, even though I'm young, I've played a lot of cricket and I've got a lot of runs behind me.
"The next goal is to get a place in the XI and, if I get that opportunity, I have to take it with both hands. If I get in the team then I have to work hard to get runs and then work harder again to do that consistently.
"I've always tried to keep my feet on the ground and strive to become a better player and that will always be my mantra."
Taylor’s inclusion in England’s 13-man squad for the second Investec Test came because Ravi Bopara, who featured in the innings defeat at the Kia Oval, was unavailable for personal reasons.
Taylor was preferred to Jonny Bairstow, who played in this summer’s West Indies Tests, and Eoin Morgan - who has shone in his 13 home Tests.
"I hoped that I would be next in line but I never took anything for granted, although I have scored consistent runs in all forms of the game to earn this chance," Taylor said.
"Playing at Headingley would be a very proud moment for me, but nothing has happened yet. I'm just one step closer and waiting for the nod and the opportunity to help England to get back into the series.
"Facing South Africa's bowling attack is always going to be a tough challenge, but it’s something that I would relish because getting an England Test call has been my aim from the word go."
Taylor’s confidence is in part born from him leading England Lions, for whom he has scored prolifically in the ranks and as captain, in the last year.
Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell, instrumental in Taylor’s winter move, is a big believer in the batsman.
"I think James was next in line for a Test call given the performances he has maintained in recent years in county cricket and for England Lions," he told Nottinghamshire’s website.
"He has started to put together big scores in Division One of the championship and he has shown glimpses of excellence in one-day cricket, which hasn't have gone unnoticed.
"He is a good technical cricketer, he prepares himself very well, he knows how to occupy the crease against quality bowlers and I have seen improvement in his game this season."