Blackcaps in Sri Lanka: Ross Taylor The T20I Grasshopper

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Another T20 game and another classy knock from Ross Taylor. The resurgence of King Roscco since that infamous eye surgery has been well documented on these Niche Cache pages, although primarily zoned in on his delightful work in Test and ODI cricket. Despite the world's apparent fascination with T20 cricket, Taylor is rarely celebrated as one of, if not the most influential Blackcaps T20 batsman and when combined with run-scoring across all formats, Taylor continues to establish himself as one of the best ever.

Depending on where you look on Cricinfo, Taylor either scored 53* @ 155.88sr (scorecard) or 43 retired (report) for the Blackcaps in the warm up game vs a Sri Lankan 11. Either way, Taylor and Colin Munro were the leading Blackcaps batsmen and whatever runs he actually scored, this knock appeared to be a typical post-2017 T20I Taylor knock; middle order class to steer the innings where it needs to go.

The Sri Lankans could only manage 135/9 in reply to give the kiwis a cute win and set them up for this three game series. I'm not here to highlight how amazing Taylor is for whacking a few in a warm up game, this is merely following a trend of Taylor making substantial contributions in T20I cricket. Considering where Taylor's coming from specifically with regards to T20I cricket, his swift run-scoring in this format is even more intriguing.

Back in early 2017, the Wildcard wrote about Taylor's weird ol' absence from the Blackcaps T20I team. Taylor wasn't viewed as a leading T20 batsman in Aotearoa and thus, he played one T20I game between the end of March 2016 and end of January 2018. While on the outer of that Blackcaps T20I group, Taylor went back to the Super Smash in the summer of 2016/17 to play two games for Central Districts Stags where he hit two 50+ scores with a strike-rate of 178.02.

Somehow Taylor wiggled his way back through what felt like a icky situation with who ever was deciding to leave Taylor out of the T20I mix. At the time, Taylor wasn't having a bar of this and made it clear he wanted to play T20I cricket and this is exactly how it's played out as Taylor's desire to perform consistently in T20I has been cool to see. This is a kiwi veteran with little to prove, players in Taylor's position tend to hit the franchise T20 route and ignore T20I cricket; lacking context, T20I is a good chance to rest established players and give the youngins a run.

Apparently. Taylor has played 14 T20I games since the start of 2018, after playing 11 T20I games between 2015-2017. Not only has Taylor shown a clear desire to lace up for Aotearoa and play all three formats, he has emerged as a consistent performer for the Blackcaps T20I team to align with his monumental work in the other formats.

Since making his T20I debut in 2016, Taylor has averaged over 30 in three of the 14 years. One of those years was 2012, then the other two are 2018 and 2019. Taylor hasn't hit a T20I in the last two years though and instead has averaged 38.20 and 37.33 via consistently solid knocks at a decent strike-rate. Having dipped down the order to take on greater responsibility in closing an innings - which is low key a crucial role - Taylor can be relied on to hit 35 off 20-odd balls more often than not.

Taylor's T20I work is perfectly in tune with his Test and ODI run-scoring. In T20I cricket, Taylor has had two of his three best years in 2018 and 2019, taking his overall career average of 25.88 up to 35.88avg in the 15 games played since the start of 2017. In that same period, Taylor's ODI care average of 47.86 jumps to 63.75 in the 52 games played, while his Test work has stayed in a similar spot with 46.52 career average and 45.5 average in 16 games played since 2017.

That's a sharp increase in T20I and ODI cricket. Although this isn't quite reflected in Test cricket, it makes sense having read Taylor's interview for The Cricket Monthly in which he talks about his eyes playing up to make it more difficult batting at night time. Test cricket is mainly played during the day, so it makes sense that there would less of a spike in production post-eye-sussing compared to ODI and T20I cricket where playing under lights is a major factor.

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Somewhat interestingly, Taylor's trend differs to that of Kane Williamson. Williamson averaged over 30 in T20I for four straight years between 2013-2017 - a beautiful mark of Williamson's quality across all formats. In 2018 and 2019 though, Williamson's averages dip down to 22.81 and 27, while playing a 15 games in the last two years. Similar number of T20I games for Taylor and Williamson, yet Wiliamson's taken a dip while Taylor's on the rise.

Taylor's craft is one of my favourite little things in the Blackcaps team and I've attacked from all angles, documenting how as Taylor gets older he continues to blast away any limitations of what the public thought he could do or be. Now we have a cheeky T20I series vs Sri Lanka and a chance to see where Taylor takes this yarn next, then if we continue in the T20I bubble; Taylor should be a key figure for the World T20.

World T20 will be played in Australia and the only niggly little insight here is that Taylor has played two T20I games in Australia, while Williamson has just one game. That lack of experience in this specific arena makes it impossible to gauge what Taylor (and Williamson) could do on the biggest T20 stage next year. We can follow Taylor's T20I production closely though, celebrating every swash-bucklin' knock as we would his plethora of Test and ODI runs.

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Peace and love 27.