I didn’t want the ball to come near me – Taylor

Ross Taylor is seeing the ball well again. In every sense. Since returning from eye surgery just over a year ago he has played as well as at any stage of his career.

Late in 2016, Taylor underwent an operation to remove a pterygium – a small benign growth – from his left eye. He was back in action at the end of January last year and has been racking up the runs: 408 at 81.60 in a small hand of five Tests and 1260 at 57.27 from 27 ODIs.

It was not that his form prior to the surgery had fallen off a cliff – far from it; he hit his 16th Test century in his last innings before having the eye sorted – but he had noticed problems in the field, particularly during day-night ODIs, and admitted he had not been able to see the ball swinging when he batted.

“It was a gradual thing so you didn’t notice it as much,” Taylor said. “It’s nice to see the ball swing and during day-night games, not to fear it. A lot of times in day-night games you didn’t want to the ball to come near you in the field and that’s not a great place to be when you are playing cricket.

“In hindsight it would have been nice to have the operation two or three years earlier. At the same time, has it made a big difference? It’s hard to tell, you are older and wiser as well which makes a difference.

“Seeing the ball swing from the hand, I hadn’t been able to see that for two or three years. But you are still human, get good balls and play poor shots so hopefully I can eliminate that as well.”

Taylor remains a vital cog in New Zealand’s middle order. He scored a masterful century in the opening match against England at Seddon Park to help secure victory and New Zealand would probably have won in Wellington had they had his experience alongside Kane Williamson.

He was forced to sit out with a quad injury sustained, Taylor says, after multiple blows to the leg in the preceding days, starting with the match in Hamilton, then training at Mount Maunganui before a third one from David Willey during the second match. He was run out in that game and said the injury played a part in him “turning like the titanic.”

Since then he has done everything he can to recover, including undergoing acupuncture, and he is now ready to rejoin forces with Williamson. “It’s been an interesting week after the win in Hamilton,” he said.

New Zealand actually made their best start of the series in Wellington, reaching 80 for 1 before collapsing against Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. In the first two matches they had laboured to 28 for 3 and 34 for 2 off their opening 10 overs.

“There’s no use going out there helter-skelter and being four for spit then playing catch-up all the time,” Taylor said. “Hopefully I contribute to that. We need to get off to a good start, set the platform and we know we are a good side when we have wickets in hand.”

England’s death bowling from Chris Woakes and Tom Curran, which closed out the Wellington match, was impressive after luck went their way with the run-out of Mitchell Santner backing up. Woakes is England’s senior man in that role, but Eoin Morgan showed faith in Curran, who claimed 5 for 35 against Australia in Perth to secure another win, and he kept his nerve with his slower deliveries after Williamson had lofted him down the ground to reach his hundred.

“I’ve done it a lot of times in training and I’ve had time to implement it in games at Surrey and a few games for England so it’s just about going out there and backing myself,” Curran said. “It’s very satisfying to see it come off.”

Taylor was watching from the sidelines as Williamson couldn’t quite get New Zealand home and said it can often become a battle of wits at the end of an innings.

“You don’t try to look too far ahead, try and have two or three boundary options. You can get a bit of a read on a bowler, that’s why you scout before the game but you can also get a feel during the match. At the end of the day the bowler still has to execute and you make them try and step away from their game plan.”

New Zealand need to knock England off their stride in Dunedin. With Taylor’s return it is possible to see it happening.

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