Bruce Taylor – More Effective in Abroad Than in New Zealand
Bruce Taylor’s record is still pretty creditable — the more so because his bowling abroad was even more effective than in New Zealand, where conditions supply all too much assistance to the seamer. In ten Tests at home, he took only 31 wickets, and in 20 Tests abroad 80 wickets.
The windiness and dampness of New Zealand have served to give seamers preferential treatment over the years. After Jack Cowie there was a robust line of medium and fast-medium bowlers: John Hayes and Tony MacGibbon, Frank Cameron, Dick Motz, the left-handed Dick Collinge, and later Lance Cairns and Ewen Chatfield. None was glamorous and all of them were stalwarts when New Zealand was at its pre-professional and pre-Hadlee poorest.
But the pick of them was Bruce Taylor, from the country town of Timaru in the South Island, a man built to carry a sheep around under each arm. Had Bruce Taylor been the third seamer in a strong side, not the opening bowler in a weak one, what might he not have done? If he could have been Bill Johnston following on after the depredations of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, or Trevor Bailey sweeping up after Fred Trueman and Brian Statham.
As a big, gangling, shoulder-heaving bowler ‘Taylor watt often wore difficult-to-counter than a man’s smoother, more predictable method. His opponent was never completely set, for a ball of the exceptional bounce could be detonated by that high and vigorous action. He could swing the ball away; if it is seamed, it was usually in. And not only did he have a lot of heart but a touch of panache as well as revealed in an 86-minute century against West Indies which set him apart from teammates of habitual caution.
On his Test debut, Bruce Taylor hit a century and took five wickets in an innings, the only person to have done so. In his first three Tests, in India, he had 15 wickets and thus set the pattern of his career: penetrating abroad on harder wickets that had some bounce, not consistently accurate enough to ‘put the ball t here’ on the responsive pitches at home. Bruce Taylor’s peak came in the West Indies in the 1971-72 series when his 27 wickets in four Tests matched Snow’s incisiveness. The highlight: occurred when West Indies chose to bat on a moist Bridgetown strip and Bruce Taylor demolished them with seven for 74.
If only a slip catch had been held off Taylor in the second innings, New Zealand might have won their first Test and series in the Caribbean. Bruce Taylor on that tour became the first New Zealander to take as many as 25 wickets in a rubber, as they used to be called. For someone who didn’t play cricket for a living or have the attitude of a professional, and who had the stimulus of playing in a winning team only twice; in his Test career, that was pretty good going.