When Jerome, the lost tal­ent, ripped

Garfield Robin­son looks back at a Test ca­reer that re­mained sadly un­ful­filled due to in­juries

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

At his best,West Indies fast bowler Jerome Tay­lor can be se­ri­ously dev­as­tat­ing, ca­pa­ble of rain­ing down sud­den and com­plete de­struc­tion on the op­po­si­tion’s bat­ting. At his best he is a bowler of con­sid­er­able skill and rapid pace, and it has been so from the time he was very young.

He was only around 10 when he ap­proached his fa­ther one day, de­liv­er­ing him­self most im­por­tu­nately, sug­gest­ing that he was now ready for a place on the lo­cal cricket team that the se­nior Tay­lor cap­tained. De­cid­ing to in­dulge his son, he brought him along to the next prac­tice ses­sion and handed him the ball. The re­sult: three wick­ets in his first three de­liv­er­ies, all bowled. It would have been four in four, too, for the bats­man was hit dead in front, but there was, of course, no um­pire.

Tay­lor went on to star for his high school, St El­iz­a­beth Tech­ni­cal, in Ja­maica, and made his first-class de­but in Fe­bru­ary 2003 against the Wind­ward Is­lands at Sabina Park. Dis­ap­point­ingly wicket-less in his first game – clearly the vic­tim of nerves – he was dropped for the next two, but re­turned for the en­counter against Guyana at Bourda where he col­lected only one wicket, though he bowled well.

The next game was against Trinidad at the Queens Park Oval, and those for­tu­nate enough to witness the Ja­maican quick’s per­for­mance in the sec­ond in­nings spoke about it for a long time.

From 20.5 overs he snatched 8-59, seven of them bowled or leg be­fore. Bowl­ing at high pace, he was par­tic­u­larly pro­fi­cient at bring­ing the ball star­tlingly back into the right-han­der. Based on that per­for­mance many pre­dicted a long and fruit­ful in­ter­na­tional ca­reer. Tay­lor first played for the West Indies in n ODI in St. Vin­cent, against Sri Lanka, and did well enough, tak­ing 2-39 runs off 10 overs. He made his Test de­but nine days later on June 20, 2003, in St. Lu­cia, against the same op­po­si­tion. He was 18.

In­jury, ill­ness, and in­dif­fer­ent form and fit­ness, meant that his ap­pear­ances for the West Indies were mostly spo­radic, though he had a con­sis­tent run after re­turn­ing from in­jury in 2014, and prior to him re­tir­ing from Tests in July 2016.

While he has bowled well on oc­ca­sion, his per­for­mances have been, at best, patchy. There was a hat-trick against Aus­tralia in 50-over game and there were five-wicket hauls against In­dia, Pak­istan and Aus­tralia (there was also a run-a-ball cen­tury against New Zealand in Dunedin in 2008).

But the wily fast bowler who de­stroyed Trinidad and Tobago early in his first-class ca­reer has not often been in ev­i­dence, and only rarely has ev­ery­thing come to­gether for the 6ft 1in Ja­maican.

On one mem­o­rable day at Sabina Park, how­ever, ev­ery­thing clicked. He ran in hard, bowled rapidly, and ex­hib­ited ex­em­plary con­trol of di­rec­tion and move­ment.

It was Fe­bru­ary 7, 2009, and the first Test of the 2008/09 se­ries against Eng­land had reached its fourth day. The West Indies had re­sponded to the vis­i­tor’s first in­nings score of 318 with 392, the in­nings clos­ing be­fore lunch. And though no­body would have dared imag­ine it at the time, that rather measly lead was to prove in­sur­mount­able.

Eng­land would have been a bit wor­ried at the break, be­cause they were al­ready 11-2, after Devon Smith ac­cepted a catch at slip from a ball that Tay­lor slanted across Alas­tair Cook, while Ian Bell, mid­dling ev­ery­thing beau­ti­fully, as is his wont, then care­lessly went, caught be­hind off Sulie­man Benn at­tempt­ing to cut a wide de­liv­ery.

Still, there was no in­di­ca­tion of the may­hem that was to un­fold, and with so many high qual­ity wick­ets still in­tact, Eng­land would have been con­fi­dent of stag­ing a re­cov­ery.

But then first ball back Kevin Pi­etersen, who had missed a first in­nings cen­tury by just three runs, had his off-stump up­rooted by a peach of a ball from Tay­lor. Full and head­ing to­ward mid­dle, it swung away wickedly late, evad­ing Pi­etersen’s out­side edge, send­ing the stick cartwheel­ing. It was a de­liv­ery that would al­most cer­tainly have de­feated any right han­der of any era.

The crowd erupted. This was a scene that re­called the days when the great four

On one mem­o­rable day at Sabina Park, how­ever, ev­ery­thing clicked. He ran in hard, bowled rapidly and ex­hib­ited ex­em­plary con­trol

Cartwheel­ing: Kevin Pi­etersen’s stump is sent spin­ning by a Tay­lor de­liv­ery

Pace and poise: Jerome Tay­lor in Test match colours

TAY­LOR’s TEST BOWL­ING RECORD Tests Balls Runs Wkts Ave BB 5wi 46 7757 4480 130 34.46 6-47 4

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