West Indies fast bowler Jerome Taylor smashed his maiden century from 97 balls to change the course of the first Test against New Zealand on its fourth day Sunday. Taylor, who had never made a first class 50 and whose previous best test score of 31 made him an unlikely batting star, came to the crease with the West Indies at 173 for six in the second session, teetering precariously in its chase of New Zealand's first innings 365.
He left only 138 minutes later after scoring 106 from 107 balls with 17 boundaries and three sixes, and having helped guide the West Indies to an eventual total of 340.
In doing so, Taylor eclipsed and almost ridiculed his previous-highest first class score of 41. He added 153 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a record seventh wicket partnership for the West Indies against New Zealand, and he brightened of a match marred by rain and bad light.
Aggressive bowling by Daren Powell and Fidel Edwards in 10 overs before stumps reduced New Zealand to 44-2 in its second innings - with an overall lead of 69 - and raising the faintest possibility of a result on the test's final day.
Powell removed opener Jamie How for 10 and night watchman Kyle Mills with successive balls to have New Zealand 33-2 before Tim McIntosh (24) and Daniel Flynn (4) saw the home team to stumps. Taylor was the hero of the day, ignoring his team's pressing danger and playing with gusto to wrest the initiative from New Zealand.
"How must I say? I don't think I have words to express my feelings right now," Taylor said. "It is a prestigious feeling at the moment.
"The coaches told me I had the potential to get a big test score. I was working on it and today it was the sort of pitch that, once you got in, it got easier. I tried to make as much use of the opportunity as well."
Taylor announced his intent when he hit two fours and a six off consecutive balls from New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori and, almost oblivious to his team's tenuous position, continued in that style to reach his half century from 50 balls.
He quickly assumed the role of senior partner in his partnership with Chanderpaul, who had been the anchor of the West Indian innings and who was happy to defer to his younger teammate. Taylor timed the ball to all parts of the ground, but not with the recklessness, the luck or improvised technique of the typical tailender. He played classic cricket shots, fluent drives both square of the wicket and through cover and each of his shots was distinguished by intent, timing and execution.
His best shots included a cover-driven six off Kyle Mills and consecutive fours through third man and cover point off Mark Gillespie.
As he closed on his century, Taylor showed none of the jitters which might have been expected of a player in unfamiliar territory. He went from 84 to 92 with consecutive fours off Gillespie, then to 96 with a further boundary from the last ball of the same over. He took a single from Daniel Vettori then, after twice playing and missing outside off stump to James Franklin, hit his 16th boundary to go from 97 to 101.
He had been at the crease for 126 minutes, faced 97 balls and hit 16 fours and three sixes. The West Indies were then 316-6 and Chanderpaul - who had reached his 49th test half century - was 65 and had faced 178 balls. Chanderpaul's innings was nevertheless vital as the West Indies worked its way back into the match after losing their first four wickets before lunch for 134 runs. Captain Chris Gayle played a fine attacking innings of 74, taking his runs from 103 balls with 11 fours and one six, but his dismissal sparked a collapse until Taylor and Chanderpaul combined.
Xavier Marshall made 20, Australian-born left-hander Brendan Nash scored 23 on debut and Chanderpaul was eventually the last man out for 76, having batted 281 minutes.
Vettori had figures of six for 56 from 25 overs, his 18th haul of five wickets or more in a Test innings.