There's a saying around sport, and especially around cricket - form is temporary, but class is permanent. And on his 27th birthday, a previously out-of-form Ross Taylor empasised the truth of that statement in the wee small hours of this morning (NZ time).
Batting first, the Black Caps were 188 for five after 44 overs against Pakistan. Fouteen runs were added in the 45th over, and then the batting blitz began; in the last five overs they added an incredible 100 runs, with Taylor leading the onslaught. He began the 46th over with 75 runs from 109 balls faced; five overs later he had gone through to 131 from 124 balls, with his last 15 balls netting a scarcely believable 56 runs! Taylor's knock included eight fours and seven sixes; all Taylor's sixes were struck in the last 31 balls of the New Zealand innings. He received terrific support at the death from Nathan McCullum (19 off 10 balls) and Jacob Oram (25 off nine balls).
The match was over as a contest early in Pakistan's innings when they slumped to 23 for four as Kyle Mills and Tim Southee knocked the top off the innings. We awoke this morning just in time to see the last two Pakistani wickets, and the Black Caps romped to a 110 run win. Cricinfo details the contest here.
This win, remarkably, propels the Black Caps to top of Group A, ahead of Pakistan in net run rate. Australia lurks a point behind with a game in hand andf looks likely to top the group, but if the Black Caps can concoct a win against Sri Lanka later in the week, they could finish second in the group, which would give them a quarter-final against one of the lower-ranked teams from the other group, possibly avoiding India or South Africa. And they still have a match against Canada with which to hopefully further improve the run rate.
Pakistan fell apart in this match, and sadly, the inevitable questions will be asked. Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan conspired to miss Taylor before he had scored, and Akmal dropped an absolute sitter eight runs and four balls later. We are sure that antennae are buzzing in the ICC's anti-corruption unit.
So, well done New Zealand, and well done Ross Taylor. Wednesday 9th March 2011 has started in the best possible way for this cricket tragic.