It was the first ball of the 39th over. In her 6 overs, Marizanne Kapp was turning out to be a bit expensive that day. But she still was the go-to bowler for Dane Van Niekerk, for a breakthrough. The first ball was a bit fuller, and the batter played it defensively back to the bowler. The next ball was an echo of the previous one, but the ball got the different treatment. The ball was full and pitched out-side off stump, so the batter got down on her knees and scooped the ball over the third man region for four. Yes, we are talking about Sarah Taylor.
She reached 98 with that trademark ‘reverse scoop’. She picked up a single through square leg. 99. After scoring her first fifty in 49 balls, she took only 30 balls to reach her next 49 runs. Tammy Beaumont gave back her strike in her very next ball.
Sarah Taylor missed her century in the previous match against Sri Lanka. But she was determined not to miss another one. As Marizanne Kapp want down the leg, she flicked the ball through the fine leg and crossed for an easy single. A single that she would remember forever.
It was not about a World Cup century in just 80 balls. Century was nothing new to her. She had hit 5 before this one and will do again. It was about the reclaiming self belive that guided her in all these years. A determination which helped her to make a comeback, after taking a break from the game, just a year before. It was a bold statement against the stigma regarding mental health. It was about all the years she fought with her diseases, alone.
But she didn’t stop there. She took the guard again and in the very next over hit 5 back to back boundaries against Shabnim Ismail, one of the fastest bowlers in the World. When she got out on 147 off just 104 balls with 24 boundaries, she had made her point. Her 24 boundaries were the highest number of 4’s hit in World Cup while it was also the highest number of boundaries hit by an English cricketer.
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When we look back to any sporting success, we look at that particular moment of glory. But we tend to forget those unceremonious days, which led to that glory. It was not easy for her. Taylor was broken into pieces. She didn’t know whether to fight back or just run away because of her panic attacks and anxiety issues. She suffered from those even between games and she has to survive those attacks without being noticed by anyone.
After each game, Sarah Taylor used to go to the dressing room and used to have sugar or wrap herself with a cold towel to cool herself down. Things get much more difficult for one, who has been top of the ICC ranking and finding it difficult to get the right rhythms. She felt that she was not matching the expectations after becoming the number one in T20 and stopped enjoying the game. She failed to find a purpose in life and even thought of quitting cricket which made the situation worst.
But she came back strong and accepted the fact that her issues will stay along. She played an instrumental role to win the 2017 World Cup with 54 and 45 in Semifinal and Final respectively.
Apart from batting, she took wicket keeping to another hight. In August 2013 against Australia, she took one of the best catches behind the stumps – be it men’s or women’s – diving at full stretch to her left, after anticipating in a split second Jodie Fields’ reverse sweep. Her swift movement behind the stump and the lightning speed hand has turned her 232 scalps across the format, highest in Women Cricket.
But the style and skill of many of her takes have marked her out as one of the most naturally gifted wicketkeepers of any gender and any era. Taylor’s takes down the leg side have made the sensation in the cricketing world many times – let it be Ellyse Perry or Trisha Chetty in the World Cup Semi-final.
Making an international debut at the age of 17, Sarah Taylor became a household name with the passing days. She played without a central contract, most of her career but that barely affected her mind. She went on putting her names in the record books and became the first women cricketer to play in men’s grade cricket in Australia.
Becoming the 2nd highest scorer for England across the format (2177 in T20I- Second highest and 4056 in ODI – Third highest) or even the partnership records don’t alone reflect her aura. Apart from international cricket, she remained a useful member for Surrey Star in KIA Super League. She made 437 runs in 18 innings with a strike rate of 122, claiming the 3rd spot in terms of the total score.
For one who gave much importance to her health took retirement in September 2019. Sarah couldn’t find her desired touch and decided to hang up her boots after the devastating Ashes series. She left the game with her head held high. She left the game, leaving behind a legacy, sheer brilliance, her approach towards the game and life, and her wit. Sarah Taylor left the game but remains as a lighthouse of the game.
Sarah Taylor, who turns 31 today, was born on this day. Happy Birthday to her!