James Taylor has had to put up with a stiff neck after facing just 14 balls from Mohammad Irfan so far – and will be perfectly happy if the same occupational hazard returns at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
The height differential between England’s diminutive middle-order batsman and Pakistan’s giant left-armer means Taylor could be forgiven for wondering at times if he is about to bang his head on Irfan’s kneecaps.
But from 22 yards, 5ft 5in v 7ft 1in has turned into a pretty even match in two ODIs to date. With the series score 1-1, Taylor is able to point to innings of 60 and an unbeaten nine and can perhaps even claim to be inching the upper ground in his battle with Irfan.
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A more decisive edge will be handy as England try to sneak one up with one to play.
Taylor will be delighted to do his bit, even if it means he has to put up with a twinge of discomfort again afterwards.
“I had neck ache for half-an-hour afterwards,” he said, with a smile, as he recalled his last innings against Irfan.
The bowler’s extra height in fact suits Taylor, as a particularly strong back-foot player who feeds off exaggerated bounce otherwise rare on the low pitches of the UAE.
“I quite enjoy facing the big guys, because it means the ball should bounce – and that plays to my strengths,” Taylor added.
“But he’s obviously exceptionally tall and I’m pretty short – so the height difference is quite funny.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) November 16, 2015
“I find it amusing looking up at him and I’m sure everybody else around the ground did as well.”
At 25 and a relative veteran alr-eady therefore of many sports dressing-rooms, Taylor knows he needs to play along with the hum-our. “I haven’t suddenly become this small overnight,” he said.
“I’ve been around the lads for a while now, so it’s nothing different.
“He’s just an exceptionally tall bowler, so it’s always amusing when I come up against him. But he’s also shown what a great bowler he is as well. In these conditions, for such a big guy, it must be tough. But he’s bowled exceptionally well so far, and he’s a real challenge.”
There is, of course, a significant bigger picture for England as they seek to build on Friday’s victory.
“Most importantly, we’ve come here to win – and so far, we’ve won one and lost one,” said Taylor, who is not in England’s Twenty20 squad and will therefore fly home at the end of this week.
— James Taylor (@jamestaylor20) November 14, 2015
Before then, on Thursday he can expect to be named in the Test squad to take on South Africa over Christmas and the new year.
That, though, will not be uppermost in his mind while there is a series to be won.
He said: “Rather than look too far ahead and get distracted by what’s on the horizon – potentially the South Africa Test matches – first and foremost, we’ve got a job to do here. We know they’re going to come back hard at us.
“It was just a delight to see the way we performed and the style with which we went about it.
“We all know the talent we’ve got in the squad. But to show it against Pakistan – especially after that first game – to come back and play like we did in the second ODI was really pleasing to see.”
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