Pakistan v England Tests
Pint-sized Taylor silences doubters
Diminutive England batsman impresses in his first Test since Kevin Pietersen’s scathing review
Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.
You may recall James Taylor.
He's the little guy who scored a dogged unbeaten 98 for England in the World Cup opener against Australia at the MCG back on Valentine’s Day.
He also made a breakthrough century against Steve Smith’s team at Old Trafford in the recent one-day series in the UK, his first hundred at international level.
Highlights: James Taylor's maiden international century
That knock was another example of why the 25-year-old Nottinghamshire batsman is so highly-rated back in the Old Dart.
In saying that, there has been little love for Taylor from England over the years.
He had played just two Tests – both at home against South Africa in 2012 – until he was given another chance at this level for the final match of the series here against Pakistan.
For those who rate Taylor, and I'm among them, it came as no surprise when he scored an unbeaten 74 on day two in Sharjah.
Quick Single: Taylor helps put England on top
With England reaching stumps on 4-222 - just 12 behind Pakistan’s first-innings total of 234 - Taylor’s contribution, his maiden Test half-century no less, could prove crucial to the outcome of this series.
At 1-0 down, England need a significant lead to force the win that would see them gain a creditable series draw. Taylor has already done his part in helping them achieve that goal.
Listed at 5ft 6in in official records, or around 167cm, Taylor’s height in reality is much shorter than that. But who cares how tall the bloke is when he is producing innings such as this?
Kevin Pietersen famously wrote Taylor off based solely on his height, writing in his book that was released last year that he should have taken up the career of his father instead – a jockey.
KP took aim at a lot of people in English cricket in that spite-filled autobiography. But his attack on Taylor, the softest of targets, was cheap and nasty.
If you want to read a snippet of KP's views on his former teammate, here goes: "On the drive up to Leeds (ahead of the Headingley Test against South Africa in 2012) I rang and asked (then England coach) Andy Flower, in my usual sweet way, how on earth have you picked Taylor? Why is (Eoin) Morgan not playing
"We were facing the fiercest bowling attack in the world. I didn’t think he was up to it.
"I have nothing against James, but the fact is, at five foot six he’s one of the shortest men currently playing county cricket. His dad was a jockey and James is built for the same gig."
Taylor (left) and Pietersen during the 2012 Test series against South Africa // Getty
To his credit, Taylor has since said he doesn’t care what Pietersen has said about him. Taylor might also add that given Pietersen’s highest Test score in the UAE was 32, he now has bragging rights on that front at least.
A sure-footed batsman whose technique is sound, Taylor has a big future at international level.
With Ian Bell’s fortunes on the wane, he might even find himself thrust into the No.3 position for England’s upcoming tour of South Africa.
Joe Root may have long-term claims on that slot but with the Yorkshireman piling on the runs at four, England will be loathe to move him up the order right now.
Wherever Taylor bats, England know they have a player who not only possesses undoubted ability but also has the heart and temperament that invariably makes all the difference at the highest level.
England certainly needed him here, his presence offering ballast to a middle order that showed its soft centre during the alarming second-innings collapse on day three in Dubai that ultimately led to their defeat in the second Test.
Pietersen may have written him off in his book, but Taylor looks like a player who is set to write a bright new chapter in his Test career.