It has been a while since James Taylor was on England’s Test radar but the Nottinghamshire batsman showed impeccable timing as he scored a career-best 291 to put Sussex to the sword at Horsham.
As the selectors discuss options for the third Ashes Test the 25-year-old offered a reminder of his undoubted talent with a magnificent innings nearly three years after he made his only two Test appearances against South Africa.
Taylor has been regarded as a one-day specialist since then but at his best there are few better players in the country over the longer format. In more than eight hours at the crease he didn’t offer a chance as he helped Nottinghamshire pile up 570 for 7 declared. At stumps on the second day Sussex were 157 for 4.
Australia’s attack would certainly offer a considerably tougher test than a Sussex side without four injured seamers. Ironically their best bowler was an Australian, Steve Magoffin, who conceded just 53 runs in 31.3 overs before getting his reward when Taylor fell to the 385th ball he’d faced, well caught at backward point by Chris Nash.
As Taylor continued his remorseless accumulation so the records were ticked off. His was the fourth-highest score by a Notts’ batsman and biggest since 1897 and also an individual record for the ground, beating the undefeated 262 made by Ian Bell, one of the England players he could conceivably replace, for Warwickshire 11 years ago.
Taylor began the day circumspectly. He hardly played a shot in anger in the first half-hour, after a 30-minute delay due to bad light, but once he’d taken two boundaries off Ollie Robinson he was away, reaching his second double hundred against Sussex with a six over long on off Peter Burgoyne’s off breaks.
There was little respite at the other end for Sussex as Chris Read progressed to a century of his own. When he was caught behind off Matt Hobden shortly after lunch for 121 (221 balls, 17 fours, 1 six) the sixth wicket pair had put on 365, another ground record and the fourth biggest stand in Nottinghamshire’s history.
Taylor went on, using his feet to pick up easy runs off the spinners and feasting on any width, particularly through the off side. It can only have been tiredness that betrayed him in the end as he chased a wide ball from Magoffin after 501 minutes at the crease. He struck 39 fours and two sixes.
Read declared when Taylor was out and initially at least it looked as if Sussex were going to enjoy a featherbed pitch just as much. Luke Wells and Ed Joyce put on 79 without alarm but after tea left-armer Harry Gurney bent his back to take three wickets in six overs including both openers for 40 and Matt Machan (20).
Left-arm spinner Gary Keedy had Chris Nash (11) taken at slip the ball after he’d been deposited onto adjoining tennis courts for six and it was left to Luke Wright and Craig Cachopa to see Sussex to the close which came eight overs early because of bad light.