Cricketer of the Week (February 2-8): Ross Taylor
As the teams gear up for the 2015 World Cup, co-hosts New Zealand seem to be on an absolute roll. After beating Sri Lanka earlier on in the summer, they defeated Pakistan by 119 runs in Napier last week to win the two-match ODI series 2-0.
Opting to bat first, the Black Caps posted a mammoth 369 for 6 in their 50 overs, courtesy of centuries from middle-order mainstays - Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. While Williamson was eventually awarded the Man-of-the-Match, the focus for this week is on Ross Taylor.
Taylor walked in to bat at the fall of opener Martin Guptill for 76, with his side comfortably placed at 171 for 2 in 27.2 overs. He started his innings off in a streaky fashion, edging a delivery off the bowling of Haris Sohail. He was handed a lifeline on 34 when he was dropped at the midwicket boundary off the bowling of Bilawal Bhatti.
The 30-year-old made the Pakistanis pay for that error and brought up his 30th ODI fifty off just 49 balls. After reaching the landmark, the right-hander switched gears and tore into the Pakistan attack. He made full use of some shoddy Pakistan bowling and more crucially, looked to score all across the ground rather than just favouring his preferred mid-wicket area.
He reached his century off the final ball of the innings, courtesy a boundary of the outside edge off the bowling of Bhatti. It was his 12th ODI hundred in his 150th match. It was also New Zealand's 100th hundred in ODI cricket. The 70-ball 102 not out contained 13 fours and 2 sixes and it helped his side reach a towering score at the end of their 50 overs. Bhatti, meanwhile, equalled the record for the most runs conceded by a Pakistan bowler in a 50-over game, after giving away 93 runs in his 10 overs.
In reply, the visitors got off to a good start, with the opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad putting on 111 for the first wicket before the latter was dismissed for 55. While Hafeez kept his side in the game, none of the other batsmen provided him with the support that he needed and they were eventually bowled out for 250 in 43.1 overs.
Excited about playing the World Cup at home: Taylor
Talking about the upcoming World Cup, Taylor said that the Black Caps are upbeat about their chances and added that he was excited about playing in such a big tournament at home.
"Everyone's going in with a bit of form. The batters and bowlers, and the way we've fielded has been outstanding and got better as the series went on,” he said.
“Talking to a few of the players, it would be nice to get straight into it without the warm-ups, to be honest. But it is what it is. The boys have been playing good cricket for a while. Come February 14, a lot of hard work will have gone in and we'll see how we go. I'm very excited at having the World Cup in our own back yard,” he added.
While New Zealand possess an excellent bowling attack with the likes of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan at their disposal, it is their batting which poses a huge threat. If the Kiwis are to do well in their home World Cup, it is essential for the likes of Taylor, Williamson among others to continue scoring big runs and help their side progress at the mega event.
You can catch the past winners of this series on this link: Recent Cricketers of the Week