England batsman James Taylor said his 70 was ‘massive for myself’ as his partnership with Nick Compton rescued their side’s innings.
The last time Taylor played against the Proteas, he was brutally exposed by the pace and bounce of Morne Morkel – so much so that the selectors could only find space for him in the Test team three years later.
A 76 in the third Test against Pakistan in November was enough to give him a place at No 5 for the first Test against the Proteas. It gave him the ideal opportunity to redeem himself, but with England struggling on 49-3, he was under immense pressure to ensure they didn’t suffer a complete collapse.
The same can be said for Nick Compton, returning not only to the side for the first time in two and a half years, but returning to his place of birth, too. It made their 125-run partnership all the more impressive, as they were able to snuff out the threat of Dale Steyn, notch up half-centuries, and make it honours even going into day two.
‘Taking everything into account, losing the toss and the conditions that could not have been more perfect for the South African bowling unit, I thought overall it was solid day,’ said Taylor. ‘To get into the position we are in now, 179-4, is a pretty successful one for the England camp.’
For Taylor, it was perhaps another case of proving his doubters, especially Kevin Pietersen, wrong, after the former England international ruthlessly criticised him in his autobiography.
‘I didn’t think James Taylor should be playing for England,’ said Pietersen. ‘He was the wrong choice. I have nothing against James but at 1.67m he’s one of the shortest men currently playing county cricket. His dad was a jockey and James is built for the same gig. We were facing the fiercest bowling attack in world cricket; I didn’t think he was up to it.’
Whether that was in the back of his mind or not, Taylor was able to focus on the matter at hand, and the pair were also able to prove that the side isn’t just reliant on Alastair Cook and Joe Root to put the runs on the board.
‘In the situation of the game it was massive for myself, and in terms of the series, because time in the middle so early is crucial. But I try hard to immerse myself in the situation rather than personal things which distract you from the bigger picture. It was about getting my head right for the situation and playing accordingly.
‘He was enjoyable to bat with – the way he applied himself was exactly what was needed,’ Taylor said of Compton. ‘He did everything we need him to do and hopefully he will kick on tomorrow. It’s been a few years out for both of us and laying down a marker is important for the team.’
Steyn, who took 3-29 on day one, confirmed the quality of Taylor and Compton’s partnership. ‘It was a very good partnership between Taylor and Compton. Taylor is a busy player, always moving a lot. I always feel like you have a chance against busy players but he didn’t allow us to create enough pressure.’