The man England cricket is missing

With issues in their middle order and some costly dropped catches, James Taylor's absence is being felt

England may be going places under Australian coach Trevor Bayliss, although not to number one in the world after defeat by Pakistan at The Oval.

Yet one player they have really missed this northern summer is James Taylor, the batsman whose career was cut short earlier this year at the age of just 26 after he was diagnosed with a rare, and career-ending, heart condition.

Taylor's record over seven Tests was modest – 312 runs at an average of 26. But the ability he showed during back-to-back half-centuries against Pakistan in Sharjah and South Africa in Durban late last year suggested he would have grown into a fine Test batsman.

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His maiden international hundred against Australia during an ODI at Old Trafford last September was more evidence he had what it took to succeed at the highest level.

His batting, though, was only part of what made Taylor a fine player. Indeed, his catching and energy in the field brought much to the England team. By the end of his last Test series in South Africa he had become arguably the best short-leg fielder in the world.

It's a specialist position and Taylor's catches to dismiss Hashim Amla and Dane Vilas on the final day of the Johannesburg Test in January were crucial contributions to a win that sealed the series for his team.

He then underlined his status as one of the best fielders in the game with a stunning catch to dismiss Dean Elgar in the final Test at Centurion, first trapping the ball in between his legs at speed before plucking it out with his hands in a move he later likened to a hen laying an egg.

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Given England put down 15 chances in the series just gone against Pakistan, it's fair to say Taylor's absence was keenly felt in the field.

Despite his on-field contributions, he was also an integral part of the dressing-room, one of the nicest men in cricket adding to a feel-good vibe that has soured slightly of late.

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Bad results have contributed to that but Alex Hales barging into the third umpire's room to argue the toss with Joel Wilson after his first-innings dismissal at The Oval told of a camp where petulance is gradually creeping in.

Players misbehaving when under pressure is nothing new and Taylor knows how hard it is to prove the doubters wrong given he seemed to have to work twice as hard as his rivals to gain international recognition due to his short stature seemingly counting against him.

His insight into the troubles of James Vince, who took his place in the team this northern summer, are particularly insightful.

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Now working as a columnist for London's Evening Standard, Taylor wrote: "Not everyone will be good enough to make the step up from county to Test cricket. Whereas you might be able to coast through a county training session, there is a far greater intensity with England. During fielding drills, people would throw the ball just that little bit harder, move that little bit quicker.

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"In international cricket, you learn quickly that there is no hiding place. At lower levels, perhaps you can go under the radar at times if you're not playing well. At the highest standard, that is simply not possible and if you don't perform, your place is on the line pretty quickly."

As well as writing a newspaper column, Taylor has also worked as a radio summariser on the BBC's coverage of county cricket since retiring.

His long-term ambition, though, is to move into coaching.

A fine player of spin, Taylor would also have been useful in Bangladesh and India later this year when England embark on back-to-back Test series.

But he hopes to use that knowledge in his new career.

Taylor, who had a defibrillator fitted in June to address the heart condition – arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy – that was discovered during a pre-season game for Nottinghamshire in April, says: "I would love to pass on what I learned to current players.

"Playing spin was one of my strengths and I'm very keen to work with batsmen, no matter what stage they find themselves at in their careers. I could definitely work well with county players and cricketers at other levels.

"I have had a few conversations with people in the game about my plans and I'm hoping to have completed the Level 3 coaching qualification by the end of the winter. I'm hopeful it will lead to something."

We can surely all wish Taylor well for the future.

Meg Lanning Steve Smith