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On night-time test match cricket and Ross Taylor’s straight drive

24/11/2015

Three sleeps before the much talked about night-time test match begins in Adelaide, I thought I should add some brief thoughts on that event and an observation from last week’s Perth test match between New Zealand and Australia.

I am a purist when it comes to test match cricket and I find the way the game develops and unfolds in a meditative fashion and the ability for an observer to dip in and dip out to be an endearing feature in this time of instant gratification but I suppose even test match cricket must try to make itself relevant to the modern age.

My first thoughts about the day-night test to be played with a pink ball was scepticism as I initially thought the move an unwarranted disturbance of those important traditions but, as Brydon Coverdale notes, in a sharp piece for cricinfo, between timeless tests and eight ball overs, test match cricket has constantly adapted and the pink ball is merely the latest step in that evolution.

The upshot of the dour draw in Perth is that, with Australia 1-0 ahead with one match to play, New Zealand will not win its first series across the Tasman since paceman Richard Hadlee spurred the kiwis to a series victory in 1985 over Allan Border’s men.

While this is obviously disappointing for kiwi fans, there is certainly much more to feel confident about going into the Adelaide test match after Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor scored magnificent centuries showing confidence and technical proficiency.

Technical proficiency in this New Zealand side is more typically attributed, appropriately enough, to the man dubbed “the future of New Zealand cricket”, Kane Williamson who so systematically dismantles bowling attacks with such regularity it has become almost not worth commenting on.

Certainly after a disappointing first outing in Brisbane where the New Zealand side was humbled, Williamson’s stellar eleventh hundred was the only solace for previously optimistic now despondent kiwi fans to cling onto.

Channel nine commentator, Mark Nicholas reflects on the “forensic artistry” of Kane Williamson and to my mind there is an intersection between art and science in good batting.

A little while ago cricinfo did a series asking pundits which was the best sight in the game.

The learned folk who contribute to that authority on the game opined on the respective merits of the cover drive, the pull shot, the hook shot or from a bowling perspective – a big turning leg break or an outswinger which takes the edge.

Visual pleasures can take on something of a snobbish tone in cricket commentary when real achievements are derided because of the lack of finesse in the way they are achieved.

This is regrettable because test match hundreds or five wicket hauls are almost never easy to come by.

Nonetheless there is something memorable about performances which are “easy on the eye”.

I was thinking of these aesthetics of the game as I blissfully absorbed Ross Taylor’s imperious return to form in compiling the first double century scored by a New Zealander against Australia at the WACA last week (Taylor finished with 290).

Traditionally, the cover drive has held a lot of weight with cricket aficionados who enjoy the visuals of the game perhaps as much as the actual events taking place.

With a mighty stride towards the ball then a gentle stroke which sends it easily across closely cropped grass, the stroke is style and grace personified.

However, it is the straight drive which Ross Taylor unfurled with clinical regularity as the spirits of Australian bowlers flagged I wish to highlight.

Taking a confident step, the bat comes down with a nice full face then forces the ball decisively gun barrel straight down the ground.

A straight drive with the body pointed down the ground while a straight line exists from the eyes down to the exposed full face of the bat and the front foot confidently striding out to meet the ball is a technically proficient shot.

The Ross Taylor version, as illustrated in Perth, has an air of the purely clinical about it – it is the sort of stroke used as an exemplar by coaches on Saturday mornings to their young charges who prefer to swing with abandon across the line.

To describe something as technically efficient and clinical can confer a sort of boring dullness of completing a job but there is beauty in precision.

Kane Williamson’s “forensic artistry” has been stellar to watch but, in Perth, Ross Taylor’s self-assured straight drive quenched my personal aesthetic thirst.

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