“The young man with, perhaps, a greater burden of expectation than anyone alive” – the Daily Mail

Leicestershire v Derbyshire, Grace Road, 29 April 2011 – County Championship, Day 3

And so it was that, at 11 o’clock yesterday morning, the golden-haired boy on whose shoulders the hopes of a nation rest walked out to meet his destiny.  As he emerged with his partner, the merciless paparazzi at last had the picture they had so long craved.  Yes, James Taylor came out to bat with Will Jefferson. 

I have to say, incidentally, that levels of interest in the goings-on at Westminster were variable at Grace Road.  This was the scene in The Meet at about ten to eleven –

At the far end of the room a small crowd are watching the wedding (the Friends of Grace Road had even got dressed up for the occasion), but most are in position to watch the match (the pitch is to the right of the picture).  Not a few of us were making sure that we got our Full English Breakfasts in before they stopped serving at 11.00 o’clock (excellent value at £4.75).  No signs of a cash-in here, incidentally – no Loyal Toast, no Waity-Katy Plateys.

The only overt expressions of opinion I heard in the course of the day came from a woman in the Fox Bar, who, on seeing The Dress, said “I bet that cost more than my house“, and from the Old Scouse Sea Dog, who, nursing his first pint, made reference to Marx’s crack about the opium of the people.  Who would have guessed that the Fox Bar was such a hotbed of Bolshevism? 

Jefferson and Taylor were resuming at just over 200-2, in reply to Derbyshire’s 305, Jefferson had made a century already, Taylor was on 15.  I was working out the chances that Taylor would be able to make another double century by the close of play, against moderate bowling and on a docile pitch, and I had the impression that he might have had the same thought in mind.

What impresses about Taylor is the combination of  elegance and timing (I heard the name Gower mentioned more than once today) with sheer relentlessness.  His first fifty arrived with chanceless  inevitability, and then after lunch he accelerated (his fifty arrived in 104 balls, then reached 91 in 44 balls).  This isn’t just a matter of hitting fours (though he managed 13 of them), but his astonishing running between the wickets.  I’ve been reading Duncan Hamilton’s splendid A Last English Summer, where he records his first impressions of Taylor, playing for England Under 19s against Bangladesh in 2009 –

“He prods the ball down early on and dashes for singles at incredible speed.  He’s rather like a mouse scampering along a skirting board”      

This helps to explain the speed at which he scores (I see his strike rate yesterday was 62.16), but it does have its perils.  When Wayne White (a large man) joined him at the crease yesterday, White cut down to the long boundary at third man and found Taylor had almost joined him at the crease before he had set off.  They ran five to get White off the mark, but a more accurate throw would have seen Taylor back in the pavilion.

Unfortunately, he was soon back there anyway, as his eyes got a bit too big for his stomach and he unnecessarily clipped a very wide ball to slip.  He lingered at the crease before leaving with the air of a boy whose Mum has just called him in for supper when there is still a couple of hours of daylight left (Oh Mum, do I have to?  I’ve almost reached my century and there’s hours left yet …) 

As he left, some greybeards in front of me were making comparisons to Graeme Pollock.

Hamilton also writes of Taylor “Without him the match suddenly dulls: there’s a dead patch in mid-afternoon which no one adequately fills“, and it was a bit like that yesterday.  Wayne White and Jigar Naik did admirably to take the score past 500 and set up a possible victory, but we were visibly back to the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.

There’s also clearly no doubt in the minds of the devisers of this advert for the club shop who is the new star of the show at Grace Road.

Taylor, I have to say, looks utterly mortified, as well he might.  Apart from the questionable decision to colour their faces bright cerise, the pose makes them look as though they are supporting the Grumbleweeds on Blackpool Pier – Nicko, Hoggy and Titch – a laugh! a song! and the old soft shoe!   All that’s missing are the stars behind their heads.

He must also be a little worried that Hoggard is about to kick away the orange box that he is standing on.

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2 thoughts on ““The young man with, perhaps, a greater burden of expectation than anyone alive” – the Daily Mail

  1. I’m finding Taylor very interesting. I’ve only seen bits of him on TV and while he looks good, he hasn’t looked as exceptional as is figures suggest he is. I’ve got no doubts about him at all, though, as the pattern of his career so far suggests a player of rare quality.

    Runs and big hundreds from the very start of his career and absolutely no hint of ‘second season syndrome’. Also, someone made the comment (I think on TV) recently, that he thought some of the England Lions players would have trouble re-adjusting to English conditions after a few months playing on the type of slow, dusty tracks which prevail in the West Indies these days. Taylor hasn’t missed a beat. And he’s only 21 (which is significant – Gale is 27, Hildreth is 26, Bopara is 26).

    Morgan and Bopara (guaranteed a run because of Gooch’s presence in the England set-up) are ahead of him at the moment but something tells me it won’t be long. Perhaps an ODI debut this summer, with much more to follow.

  2. He probably isn’t quite as good as this blog sometimes makes out – it is a bit prone to hyperbole – but I think he is an exceptionally good player.

    He isn’t obviously spectacular, but he does have an uncanny ability to place the ball where the fieldsmen aren’t and this inexorable appetite for runs that makes him turn singles into twos, twos into threes and (surprisingly often) threes into fours. He’s also exceptionally good at adapting his game to the circumstances.

    I suppose the other really impressive thing about him is that, since last season, he has effectively been Leicestershire’s senior batsman in a fairly hit and miss line-up (at the age of 20/21) and he seems to thrive on it.

    I couldn’t make it to the Oval today, but it sounds as though he almost carried his bat through the second innings in difficult circumstances, a thing I’ve seen him do several times.

    Also a useful fieldsman, bowls a bit of leg-spin and – from what I’ve heard – very level-headed.

    I think you’re right – they will try him in one dayers at 6 before too long, and in the Test side not too long after that (and, if so, I hope they persist with him in the way they have with Bell.)

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