When Taylor doffed his cap to The Don
Former Aussie skipper reflects on his record-equalling 334 not out, which happened on this day 22 years ago
16 October 2020, 01:15 PM AEST
On October 16 1998, Mark Taylor became just the fourth Australian to post a triple-century in Test cricket. Australia's captain finished day two of the second Test against Pakistan on 334 not out, equalling the highest Test score of the legendary Sir Donald Bradman. Taylor declared the following morning, ensuring the two players would be forever linked by that famous number.
Having batted for 12 hours across two days in temperatures that hovered in the mid-30s, Mark Taylor was physically and emotionally spent.
The Aussie skipper had finished day two of the second Test against Pakistan unbeaten on 334 in his team's total of 4-599, level with Sir Donald Bradman's Australian record score, which had stood for over six decades.
But as an exhausted Taylor retired to his hotel room in the northern city of Peshawar, he quickly realised that a good night's sleep would elude him.
The 33-year-old was wrestling with a decision that would help define his legacy and, more importantly to Taylor, have a huge influence on Australia's chances of winning the match and the series.
"I spent hours that night contemplating what to do," Taylor told cricket.com.au.
"I finally got to sleep at about 2 o'clock in the morning. I was thinking about what to do so I certainly didn't crash as well as I'd hoped.
"I think ideally I would have batted on for 20 minutes just to put their openers out in the field for 20 more minutes before we declared.
"But I thought if I did that I would then end up on 340 not out or something like that and I think people would have assumed that I'd batted on just for my own glory.
"I didn't want to send that message either so the more I thought about it, I came to the decision that the best thing I can do is declare (and) end up on the same score as Sir Donald, which I'm more than delighted with."
Playing in his 98th Test and with almost a decade of international experience behind him, Taylor's teammates had unsurprisingly left their skipper alone to make his own decision.
Taylor says there was only one person close to him who managed to apply a small amount of pressure to bat on.
"I think my sister Lisa said 'bat on you idiot’!" Taylor said with a chuckle.
"So she probably would have liked me to go past (Bradman).
"But no one else was really saying that.
"I reckon after phone calls to home and my sisters and everyone else, it really just came down to me.
"Everyone was just saying 'you do what you think is right and what's in the best interests of the team'.
"And I think at the end of the day I did that.
"If I'd batted on ... I was pretty well saying goodbye to the chance of winning the game."
The opener's record-equalling innings had almost ended before it barely begun on the opening morning.
He had got off the mark with a French cut that flew over middle stump and ended up at the fine leg boundary.
He had also been dropped when his score was on 18 and then again nine runs later.
But Taylor barely offered a chance from then on and, as a keen student of the game, he was well aware of the exclusive group he would join if he could pass the 300 mark.
"I wasn't feeling that bad until the high 200s," said Taylor, who had worked with fitness guru Kevin Chevell for five months leading up to the series.
"I think the thought of making 300 makes you feel more weary.
"So I started to get a little bit weary, but I just kept telling myself that the chances of getting back to 280 or 290 again are minuscule.
"So I just gritted my teeth and said to myself 'this is my best chance to get one so I better not throw it away.'
"So I just hung in there and (on 298) I got a short one off Mushy (leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed) and just beat the bloke at cover and as soon as I hit it I knew ... I was quite excited.
"I knew The Don had made 304, I knew Bob Cowper had 307 and I knew Simmo (Taylor's former coach Bob Simpson) was 311.
"So when I got past that I was batting with Ricky Ponting and I said something like 'there goes Simmo'."
Having gone ahead of his former coach, Taylor had a golden opportunity to overtake Bradman when he faced the final two balls of the day on 334.
Needing just one run to claim the record, Taylor clipped the final delivery of the day firmly to mid-wicket, but was thwarted by a handy stop from in-fielder Ijaz Ahmed.
Not that Taylor has any regrets.
"I wouldn't change anything," he said.
"I was comfortable with the decision I made at the time and I'm more than comfortable with it now.
"I don't want people to think for a minute that I just batted to 334 and said 'that's it, I'm now going to declare'.
"That's not how it went. It was a quirk of fate that I ended up on the same score and I had the chance to work out what I wanted to do.
"I've always said to people that you're there to try and win games of cricket.
"I wanted to declare to give us a chance to win because we'd won the first Test and if we'd won that Test we would have won the series.
"As it turns out we didn't win the Test (the match ended in a draw), but I think I sent the right message to the team and to the people who watch at home."
While Taylor matched Bradman's score, the raw numbers indicate that The Don's famous performance at Headingley 64 years earlier was a far more attacking innings than the marathon effort of his contemporary.
Bradman's innings took 383 minutes and 448 balls, while Taylor faced 564 balls and batted for almost twice as long.
The Don also struck 46 fours compared to Taylor's 32, but the left-hander wasn't afraid of a little one-upmanship when the pair got together in Adelaide a few months later.
"He sent me a letter ... saying 'congratulations on equalling my record and I'm delighted to be sharing the same score'," Taylor said.
"He invited me over for a chat and ... we went through all the numbers together and he scored them quicker and hit more boundaries.
"And I sort of said to him 'but Don, I actually hit one six' and I sounded very pleased with myself.
"And he said, 'Mark - I always kept the ball on the ground'".
This story was originally published on October 16, 2014