England and Nottinghamshire middle-order man James Taylor shares his tips on how to resurrect an innings after an early collapse.
You’re walking to the wicket after a few early wickets have fallen. How do you go about recovering the situation?
I think the main thing is you’ve got to be proactive and think about how the bowler’s trying to get you out. A lot is made of how to go about rebuilding an innings but I think it should come quite naturally and you don’t need to do anything dramatically different to what you would normally do at the start of your innings: play your natural game and occupy the crease for as long as you can. That’s the way I’ve always done it; as soon as I get to the crease I try to be proactive, whatever the situation, and play the way I usually would.
So temperament is as important as technique in making sure you don’t let the situation get on top of you?
Yeah exactly, rather than thinking about the match situation I think you’ve almost got to break it down and focus on your own game and how you’re personally going to survive; not what happened before you walked to the wicket.
Do you look to take the attack to the opposition to reclaim the ascendency?
To some extent, but it does depend on the pitch and what the bowlers are doing. As soon as it gets a bit stagnated and the runs dry up then it’s going to make it even harder because if you do go ‘bang, bang’ and two quick wickets fall, then your team has gone nowhere. You’ve got to keep trying to make sure you wrestle that initiative back and get the momentum on your side. Once the opposition have got the momentum it’s nearly always the case that wickets continue to fall.
When the bowlers are on top and you’re struggling to find the boundary, how do you go about releasing the pressure?
I think every situation will be different and you’ve got to think of your main strengths and then you’ve got to think what length the bowler is going to be bowling and where you’re most likely to be able to score off him. It’s those low-risk options with a high reward that you need to focus on. You do have to adapt to the situation for each pitch and bowler you come up against but you can’t really look too far from your own strengths.
Are there any instances of rebuilding an innings you’re particularly proud of?
When I was at Leicestershire I came in when we were 3-3 against Loughborough Uni. Perhaps an innings against a university side isn’t the best example but in some ways we were under even more pressure because we were expected to put in a good performance against them, being a professional county. I went on to get 237. Another time I got 200 against Middlesex, going in after a couple of early wickets, and put on a 300 partnership with our overseas player Andrew McDonald.
And in both those knocks you rescued the innings by playing quite aggressively rather than dropping anchor, didn’t you?
Yeah, I did on those occasions. I play so many different types of innings because I think my main strength is being able to adapt to the situation. I have innings like those ones when I’m really fluent and score quickly and then innings where I have to graft really hard, either because I’m out of form and not striking the ball so well, the bowlers are on top and you’ve just got to battle through, or the pitch isn’t ideal to score runs easily on.
Are you someone who seeks advice from the batsmen who have lost their wicket or is it up to you to interpret the pitch for yourself once you’re out in the middle?
I think it’s a bit of both. It’s up to you to watch what’s going on closely while you’re up on the balcony; you’ve got to be proactive and see what’s going on out there. As much as you can get advice from the guys batting with you, you’ve got to seek that information out for yourself and look at what the pitch and the bowlers are doing from your own point of view.
Does the fact that you’re smaller than the average batsman mean some shots come more easily to you?
Obviously I’ve always been small, it’s not anything new to me! But in terms of picking up length I think it is a bit easier for someone of my height. For example the pull and the cut shots; I can pull some bowler’s good length balls that other people wouldn’t be able to do. It’s one of my main strengths, picking up length quicker than most.
On the flip side, are some shots more difficult for a smaller batsman? For instance, is it difficult to get on the front foot to a tall bowler pitching it back of a length?
It can be, but then I can often play that type of bowler more easily off the back foot than other batsmen. There are lots of pros and cons to being my size, but I’m pretty happy as I am!