CRICKET: Taylor signs off in style

Brandon Taylor leads Zimbabwe’s great entrance during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match against India at Eden Park yesterday  in Auckland, New Zealand

Brandon Taylor leads Zimbabwe’s great entrance during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match against India at Eden Park yesterday in Auckland, New Zealand

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BY ROBSON SHARUKO

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IN his last innings for a country he has served with distinction, Brendan Taylor shone like a beacon in Auckland yesterday but, not even a place in the history books, could deliver the fairy-tale World Cup victory for the perfect ending the stage demanded.

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The 29-year-old defied the emotions of his final appearance for the Chevrons, to pluck his team from a very precarious position into a very strong one, with a brilliant century against the world champions at Eden Park.

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From 33-3, Taylor provided the rock on which his team built a defendable 287, thanks largely to his 138 off 110 balls knock which was another display of the quality that he has as the team’s only world class batsman.

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But, in the end, it wasn’t enough to propel them to a victory that would have provided the perfect send-off for a cricketer, and leader, who has always fought for his country with distinction.

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He will remember, for the rest of his life, the day his international career came to an end.

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When you get Virat Kohli patting you on the back for a job well done, a stadium dominated by Indian fans giving you a standing ovation and all your teammates lining up to congratulate you, there is no need waiting for journalists to put such powerful sights and sounds into context for you.

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Of course Taylor, who now leaves for a three – year stint in English county cricket, would have loved to leave as a winner and beating the world champions would have provided the perfect script.

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Instead, he lost this game yesterday after lndia’s powerful batting line-up chased their highest World Cup target to win by four wickets.

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Suresh Raina was the star of that Indian chase with a century but things might have turned out differently had he not been given a lifeline soon after passing the 50 mark, by Hamilton Masakadza who dropped a regulation catch.

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Taylor became the first cricketer in the history of the game to score consecutive centuries in his final two innings for his country.

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Sadly, in both games, he ended on the losing side.

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“Getting a 100 in the World Cup for your country is always very special, unfortunately both in losing causes, it would have been a lot more sweeter if we had gone over the line,” Taylor said.

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“Sad that it ended but it’s been a joyful ride and one that l have thoroughly enjoyed.

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“We played some brilliant cricket and we have been beaten so many times and that really hurts us.

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“There hasn’t been a lot in it, just a few dropped catches and sort of finishing off in our bowling at the end and losing wickets at crucial times and that set us back.

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“But we have played some good cricket.”

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Taylor became the first Zimbabwean to score back-to-back centuries at the World Cup and also the only local cricketer to score consecutive ODI hundreds.

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He showed a lot of emotion, when he finally got his century yesterday, swinging his bat wildly in delirium after getting to the magical mark with a six.

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It was his eighth ODI hundred and five of them have come when he was captaining the team, showing once again how he thrives under the pressure of leadership.

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He leaves as one of the leading run scorers after the group stages of this World Cup and now and again, under pressure, he delivered for his country.

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Yesterday was not any different after the top order failed yet again and he found willing partners in the consistent Sean Williams and Craig Ervine to share defining partnerships for their team.

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His 15 fours and five sixes ensured that Zimbabwe were well placed to fight for a score of over 300 when he departed.

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Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and Taylor felt they were 30 or so runs short even though, in the context of where they had been at the beginning, the eventual score looked impressive.

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Another skipper, who isn’t driven by the passion to always win, would have chosen to reflect on the positives that this was the first time Zimbabwe had scored more than a dozen sixes in a World Cup match.

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Not Taylor, not even in his swansong international match.

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“After 15 overs l would have taken 280 but in the last 10 overs or last five we should have got 310 or 320 and that could have made a lot of difference, ” said Taylor.

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“But there was the crucial dropped catch but that happens, they played the better cricket and there is no surprise they are at the top of the log as well.”

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Masakadza provided the life for Raina in the defining moment of the game when lndia appeared to be on the back foot and struggling to find a way out of their hole.

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As has always been the case, Zimbabwean bowlers impressed with the new ball and were rewarded with early wickets but lndia, in the end, had a lot of quality to negotiate their way home.

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This was always going to be Taylor’s game and he delivered, as he has so often done for his team, even on the day when he brought the curtain down on his international career.

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Players like Brendan Taylor don’t just emerge on the scene all the time and he will be badly missed by a team that had become a huge part of his life for the last 17 years.

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But, like a true champion, he left in a blaze of runs to his name.

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