Taylor is suitable for number 6, says Strauss
Thursday , August 02 2012 , 05:44 PM
Andrew Strauss has seen enough of James Taylor to know the diminutive batsman is the right choice at number six for England at Headingley.
Taylor was today set to make his debut against South Africa, in a pivotal contest which may well decide who tops the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
One more victory for the tourists, after their annihilation of England at The Oval last week, will put them top above England - irrespective of the outcome of the final match at Lord's.
The stakes are high therefore, and the challenge significant for 22-year-old Taylor - a surprise inclusion in place of Ravi Bopara, who pulled out for unspecified "personal reasons" hours before the 13-man squad was announced on Sunday morning.
Strauss, however, has no doubts that Taylor has all the right credentials.
"James is just at the start of his career. But I think he's got an old head on young shoulders, and he'll stand up well to any challenge he encounters," said the England captain.
"What I like about him is that he bats higher up the order and averages really well in first-class cricket.
"His record stands up there with anyone's, and we've got a proper batter at number six who can play really long innings.
"That is a fantastic position to be in."
Taylor will have the reassurance of a near specialist batsman to come in behind him, in wicketkeeper Matt Prior. "With the tail we've got, we've a lot of guys who can contribute," added Strauss.
"But you need someone to hang around with them, and we hope James can do that.
"I've seen him a few times (when I've been) playing for Middlesex, and he looks very organised for a young guy ... and knows his game very well.
"His temperament looks very solid. He has come into the (England) Lions and always performed when he's played - that suggests he deals with a step up very well.
"That's all the constituent parts you look for in a young player."
Taylor's opportunity has come in vexed circumstances for the man he replaces.
England, and Bopara, have declined to describe in detail the troubles which forced him out of contention. Strauss said: "I feel for Ravi.
"He is going through a bit of a hard time personally at the moment.
"It was a big call on his part to say 'I'm not in the right frame of mind'. That is quite a brave thing to do. We're all behind him and offer him any support we can."
South Africa have no such difficulties.
Their captain Graeme Smith returned to England two days ago, having flown home to Cape Town and back between Tests to attend the birth of his first child.
He is on a natural high, but knows England will surely provide tougher opposition than they did in London.
"We don't come here expecting England to give us anything for free," said Smith. "We are going to have to earn it. We have the mindset to do that."
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