Taylor celebrates birthday in style

Batting with a cracked bat, Ross Taylor made the most of two birthday presents early in his innings to plunder a hundred as the BLACKCAPS cruised to a 110-run victory over Pakistan in a cricket World Cup match at Pallekelle, Sri Lanka.

Taylor celebrated his 27th birthday by smashing 131 in 124 balls, including seven sixes and eight fours, as the BLACKCAPS posted 302 for seven from 50 overs at the Pallekele stadium. Pakistan never threatened the target after slumping to 66 for six and were eventually dismissed for 192 but only after No 8 Abdul Razzaq hit a defiant 62 in a ninth-wicket partnership of 66 with Umur Gul, who scored 34 not out.

The news was not all good for the New Zealanders, however, as captain Daniel Vettori injured his right knee while attempting a catch early in Pakistan's innings and did not return to the field.

Taylor played a measured his innings before unleashing in the final flurry as New Zealand scored a whopping 92 runs from the final four overs.

In one brutal over, Pakistan quick Shoaib Akhtar was struck for three sixes and two fours as Taylor raced past three figures in 117 balls. The over yielded 28 runs.

More was to come. Having figured in half-century stands with Martin Guptill (57) and Scott Styris (28), the New Zealand vice-captain paired up with Jacob Oram (25 off nine balls) to power 85 off 22 balls. Nathan McCullum added a quickfire 19.

Towards the end of his innings Taylor signalled for a new bat and later revealed the one he had been using had suffered damage before the match.

"I cracked it in the nets a couple of days ago. It seemed to go OK today but hopefully the new one can be just as good. I've only had it for a couple of weeks," he told reporters, adding he considered his early chances to be fine birthday gifts from the Pakistanis.

"I had a bit of luck early on which I put down to my birthday but towards the end there I hit a few boundaries which was pretty sweet.

"Even when I was on 30 or 40 I still struggled a bit but the way that Nathan and Jake came in, they almost showed me the way to play and after that a few came out of the middle so I was pretty happy with that.

"One of our strengths is the power we have down the bottom and it showed today with the way Nathan batted and Jake."

New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee, who took three for 25 from eight overs, described Taylor's knock as "one of those innings you dream of having".

"We were talking 245 and then all of a sudden to get to 300 was amazing and the way Rosco went about it, he paced his innings perfectly."

Southee and Kyle Mills, who snared two for 43 from eight overs, knocked the top off the Pakistan order in favourable conditions for bowling.

"It swung around early doors and Millsy did a great job so we managed to pick up a few wickets early and put some pressure on them. They couldn't come back from that," Southee said.

Meanwhile, Taylor was unsure of the extent of Vettori's injury.

The 32-year-old landed awkwardly as he tried to catch Kamran Akmal at mid-on and was helped to the dressing room by team officials.

"Hopefully it's just a bit of jarring. He's key to our team and we need him for the rest of the tournament," Taylor said.

New Zealand have a three-win, one-loss record and head to Mumbai for Sunday's match against Canada. A quarterfinal spot assured, their focus will be finishing as high up the group A ladder as possible to avoid big guns in group B such as India and South Africa.

NZPA

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