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Courageous Captain Sets Record Straight

17th October 1998.

Mark Taylor has joined Sir Donald Bradman as the highest scorer in a Test in the 115-year history of Australian cricket.

They sit beside each other in the lists, a mountainous score bringing together two men with little in common save an innate determination to keep going.

No-one, not Warwick Armstrong or Charlie Macartney or Victor Trumper or Bill Lawry or Neil Harvey or Bob Simpson or Allan Border or the Chappells, no-one has surpassed the monumental 334 not out he scored in Peshawar on Friday.

Not even Bradman has scored more.

Now they sit beside each other, and it seems fit and proper that Australia should declare overnight because it will not do, quite, to go past The Don.

It is a remarkable turnaround for Taylor.

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor at the official naming at Bolton Park in Wagga Wagga.
Photo ©: Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 AU, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sixteen months ago, he was disconsolate as he walked from the field at Edgbaston. He was in a state of utter confusion. His powers had deserted him, apparently for ever. His bat consisted entirely of edges and there was glue upon the soles of his boots. He didn’t seem capable of scoring 34, let alone 334.

Even in this innings, he started scratchily. Some of us have spent a lifetime worrying about the blessed fellow. Dropped on 18 and 27, he could scarcely time the ball and appeared likely to depart at any moment. Nothing seemed less likely than a long occupation.

Taylor coughed and spluttered his way to 60 and then, quite suddenly, like the sun appearing from behind apparently endless clouds, his game started to flow.

Suddenly he was moving easily, pulling boundaries and driving through cover. Suddenly he was a batsman again, not a man with a strange bit of wood in his hands. He did not look back, did not look likely to lose his wicket thereafter – or not to a bowler, anyhow, for he did on several occasions endanger himself by attempting singles better left to those fleeter of foot.

Taylor trained hard during the winter and lost several kilos, but he cannot be mistaken for a natural athlete. Indeed, his apparent ordinariness has led him to be underestimated. The fitness helped.

This innings could not have been played by a man carrying excess baggage in body or mind. His stamina was unfailing and his concentration was unwavering. Not once did he attempt anything untoward.

As he went along, Taylor surely remembered all those hard times, all those lonely walks back to the pavilion, the quiet corner of a dressing-room, the bruises he would not show and the worries he would not reveal.

Not once during his long winter did he let poor batting returns affect his captaincy. Here is a man in charge of himself, a man determined to put the record right and man to whom the game owed some runs.

This innings was an epic of conception and execution. It was a humble innings, too, entirely lacking the peacock element witnessed elsewhere. Simply, he put the bad ball away and otherwise ground his opponents into the dust.

He did play an occasional memorable shot, a sumptuous pull off Azar Mahmood springing to mind. Otherwise, he simply moved serenely along.

He might have left Bradman in his wake. Two balls remained and one run was needed. It was not to be. Probably Taylor was aware of the record, for he is not a fool, nor a man to pretend such things do not matter.

Of course, he would have liked the record for himself. But he will know, better than anyone, that he cannot hold a candle to Bradman.

It was an extraordinary effort by a man not easily shifted from his course. A year ago, Taylor could not bat at all. Now he stands in the books where great deeds are recorded, impressive and immovable.

This article was written for The Age.
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