Time to Declare
Sample of Time to Declare
334 and ALL THAT
It was two o’clock in the morning before I knew finally what I had to do, and would do. Room 428, Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar—17 October 1998. I had woken from a brief and fitful sleep to the hum of the big city which sits just below the Khyber Pass, in Pakistan’s north. What a day it had been . . . and what a time in my life.
For six sessions, two full days, on a beautifully tailored wicket at the Arbab Niaz Stadium, I had batted and battled on—in draining thirty-degree heat partnered by soaking humidity. Rarely before in my life in cricket had I been so much in what Greg Norman has called the ‘zone’. For one of the few times in long seasons spent trying to master the art of batting, I was in total, absolute control, sure there was no way they could ever stop me. I had scored 100, 200, 300 against Pakistan’s attack. Somehow—in no way contrived—at the end of the second day, I had arrived by unbelievable chance at a magical figure spoken of in tones of hushed reverence in Australian cricket, 334—the score achieved by Donald Bradman in his legendary innings against England at Headingley on 11 and 12 July 1930. The Australian Test record. There was just one difference between Sir Donald and me. I was not out. Back home, asI later found out, openline callers to radio stations were urging me to ‘bat on’ . . . to the world record—Brian Lara’s 375 for the West Indies against England in Antigua in 1994.
Between Lara and me were five players: Walter Hammond 336 not out (England v New Zealand, 1932–33), Hanif Mohammad 337 (Pakistan v West Indies, 1957–58), Sanath Jayasuriya 340 (Sri Lanka v India, 1997–98), Len Hutton 364 (England v Australia, 1938) and Gary Sobers 365 not out (West Indies v Pakistan, 1957–58).
I woke with a start, my mind crystal clear. Getting to sleep at all hadn’t been easy, even though I was physically exhausted; my mind was buzzing. Now, at 2 a.m., one thought dominated—an old philosophy which had underpinned Australian cricket throughout the seasons of my experience. During my years in the Test team we had lived by the 600-run philosophy—simply, that if we could make 600 runs in a game, we were going to win a hell of a lot more cricket matches than we lost. The score on the board at Arbab Niaz Stadium stood at Australia 4–599. We were there, we had arrived at our team goal. I knew then there was only one choice: to declare and set about trying to win the match. On one hand, cricket is a game about individual achievement and goals. But much more than that it is a team game—and in my time as Australia’s captain I had tried always to put the team first, eventually taking the individual out of any equation. I would declare. The decision made, I slept a dreamless sleep, waking in fair shape despite the long haul of the innings, and a shorter-than-usual sleep.
Since those two days in Peshawar—days which I will never forget—I have fielded literally hundreds of enquiries about my 334. Because of the magical link to Bradman there seems a greater fascination about the fine details of this innings than about any other individual event in my career. Contemplating the journey involved in telling the story of my life in the pages of this book, it seemed the ideal place to take block. Many people rate my century at Edgbaston in the second innings of the First Test in 1997 as the finest achievement of the Taylor career in cricket. Under the pressures that weighed me down at that time, perhaps it was. It enabled me to go on and achieve the other things that my career brought me—including the 334. But people love a fairy tale. And Peshawar’s monumental coincidence was one of those, in the sporting context. So, to begin the journey of Time to Declare, I will take you back to Pakistan and try to reconstruct from the happy jumble of my mind over those days just how it was. And why it turned out the way it did.
THE INNINGS—DAY 1
The news greeting us in Peshawar was that Wasim Akram, Pakistan’s main strike bowler, was out of the Test with injury. The home side would go in with two young guns, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Zahid, as their opening bowlers. We won the toss and batted on a wicket that suggested some early life, but gave promise of settling into a beautiful batting strip. The two young Pakistani quicks were fired-up, and early on bowled as fast as anyone I faced in my career (my suspicions were confirmed with the release of figures in May 1999 which showed Akhtar at 155 kilometres per hour as the fastest bowler in the world and Zahid at 149 km/h equal third-fastest). My first runs came from a nick off the inside edge which shot past the off-stump, beat the keeper and raced down for four. It was the only boundary in the first hour. ‘Slats’ (Michael Slater) went early—and we were 1–16.
It was a hostile opening. Ahktar and Zahid were not as good as I have faced, obviously lacking the experience of the likes of Akram, Younis, Walsh or Ambrose. But, by gee, they were quick that morning . . . really steaming in.
I was dropped in the covers at 18, off Mushtaq Ahmed, a back-foot drive off a loose delivery which I hit in the air. It was a tough one-handed chance to Saeed Anwar which went to ground. Not long afterwards, Saeed dropped a sitter at bat-pad. Mushtaq Ahmed deceived me a little in flight and as I lunged forward the ball tookpad, then bat and headed straight for Anwar’s belly-button. He dropped it. I was 25 at the time. The next chance I gave was on 325 . . .
From that point on, I was in the ‘zone’. It was a slow first day, the light gloomy and bad enough to cost us an hour of play. At stumps, I was 112 not out and we were 1–224 with Justin Langer on 97.
THE INNINGS—DAY 2
We started half an hour early the next day, and on Fridays in Pakistan the first session is traditionally two and a half hours anyway, for reasons to do with religion. This was the toughest period of my innings, the heat oppressive and wearing through the three hours. But I was okay; I have never been the world’s fittest-looking bloke, but I have always been pretty strong and able to stay out there for a long time. I had worked hard on my fitness before Pakistan, with physical fitness guru Kevin Chevell, and in the last forty minutes or so of that session I picked up fifty runs, with the heat affecting the bowlers more than it was me. Through a long stay like that I drink plenty of water and Powerade. The elongated session provided an important opportunity. In the three hours before lunch I managed to score exactly 100 runs, taking me to 212 at the break. ‘Well done, Tubs,’ said the guys when I came back in. ‘You know the best thing about it?’ I said. ‘That’s 100 in a session!’ ‘Turn it up,’ they said. ‘Bullshit—that was three hours!’ ‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said. ‘It was a session, between the start of play and lunch.’ It’s a joke (and a point of contention) that has carried on ever since. I reckon I’ve got ’em on a technicality.
At lunch, I sat next to Michael Slater. As old Wagga boys and opening partners, we’re pretty good mates, and he was really pumped up for me. Before that day we had shared equal top scores in first-class cricket—219. ‘You’re going to get past me today, Tubs,’ he said. ‘Bloody oath I am,’ I replied. ‘I’m going to give yousomething to chase.’ I was feeling great—a little weary, but still sharp.
Not long after lunch I nudged a ball away for a single, and was on 220. I looked up at Slats in the stand, and gave him a little wave. I then went on . . . and on, feeling pretty much invincible. In the short session between lunch and tea I pushed on to about 260.
I had by now reached a point where I honestly didn’t believe I could get out. It just wasn’t a factor. It was bloody amazing. I had spent a whole six months of my career in 1997 trying to work out how I was going to get a run. Any run I got then was pretty much unintended. I’d try to play a straight drive—and it would finish up at backward square leg. But in Peshawar, I knew exactly where they were going. Even though they had five men on the boundary I could still picture myself hitting a four—and would do it.
It was only when I got to the 290s that I started to get a little nervous. All of a sudden I was a bit weary and overwhelmed. More mentally tired than anything else, I suppose. And the thought of a Test 300 is a somewhat sobering one for any batsman. Three hundred is the equivalent of a bowler getting 10-for in a game.
At 298, I got a short one from Mushtaq Ahmed. The moment was a perfect example of how well I was hitting them. They had fieldsmen at deep long-off, deep point and at cover. I knew if I could beat the bloke at cover, I would get two at least. I hit it exactly where I wanted to hit it, centimetres past the diving cover fieldsman and down to the fence for four.
From there to stumps it was a bit of a haze as batting milestones kept looming up ahead of me. I got past Bob Cowper’s 307 scored at the MCG in 1965–66 and at 310 I got a thickish edge off Aamir Sohail to jump to 312, passing Bob Simpson’s 311 scored against England at Manchester in 1964. The boys on the balcony cheered; Simmo, of course, had been the team coach in 1986–96. Ricky Ponting, who was batting with me at the time asked me between overs: ‘What was that about?’ I told him that I was now pastSimmo’s score. ‘Who’s left?’ he asked. ‘Well, the only person I can think of from an Australian point of view is Sir Donald Bradman with his 334,’ I told him. We were twenty minutes from the end of the day’s play. ‘I plan to be here at stumps,’ I told Ricky. I almost wasn’t. On 325, Aamir Sohail, bowling left-arm round the wicket, speared one down the leg side and I got a feather touch which went straight into Moin Khan’s gloves—and straight out again.
So it was that nearing the end of the long, hot day, I was on 334, with two balls to play. Aamir Sohail was firing his left-armers in with three blokes on the leg side to cut off the singles—a mid-on, mid-wicket and a sort of short fine leg—with a couple out in the deep. He bowled me two identical balls pitched on leg stump and I played almost identical shots—to Ijaz Ahmed at mid-wicket. I tried to hit the last ball of the day a bit finer, to squeeze it past him, but he had moved a little squarer and there was no chance. So 334 it was and I was delighted as I walked off, bone-weary and three kilos lighter than I had been at the start of it. I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to do at that stage.
That afternoon at Arbab Niaz Stadium, I didn’t plan to finish the day on 334. I didn’t do what Sid Barnes did—deliberately sacrificing his wicket when on the same score as Bradman, 234, in the same innings against England in Sydney in 1946–47. I didn’t think about throwing my wicket away or set out deliberately not to take runs off the last over. All that sort of speculation is wrong.
People have said and written subsequently that it was a noble gesture for me to declare on the same score as Sir Donald. I appreciate those thoughts—and yes, of course I am proud of the wonderful historical co-incidence of that day, and that score. Yet, you know, all of it was fate. I ended up on the same score by chance, then finally decided to declare—as I’m sure Sir Donald Bradman would have done—for the good of the team.
The room at stumps was a blur of congratulations and talk of the 334 and the Bradman factor. It wasn’t long at all though before the conversation moved on to: ‘What are we going to do tomorrow?’ I can reveal now that my initial thought was to bat on for twenty minutes or so. That had nothing to do with breaking records or getting past the Don or anything like that. It was to do with making it difficult for their openers—so that they wouldn’t be padded up and comfortable and ready to start the day but would have to field for a while, then hustle on the pads. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that the idea wasn’t so brilliant. You know as an opener that if the other mob has batted for two days then you’re going to be out there quick smart anyway—whether straightaway or half an hour into the day. It wouldn’t make much difference. So I filed that one away.
Steve Waugh and I had a quiet talk in the room. ‘What are you going to do?’ he asked me. ‘To be perfectly bloody honest, I don’t know,’ I told my vice-captain. We ran through the options. ‘If you declare now, on Bradman’s score, you know that’s something that will be remembered for a long time,’ said Steve. ‘And if you bat on and get the record, on your own, that will be remembered too.’ Someone else chipped in: ‘What about the world record?’
I killed any talk of that straightaway. I knew that if I went after Lara’s record, we could kiss the Test match goodbye. I needed 42 more runs—so I would have been looking at a minimum of an hour’s batting, probably more. They would have taken the third new ball, and chances are the over rate would have been slow. Say they had bowled twelve overs in the hour and I had made 25 or 30 more runs to get to 360. What to do then? Declare? Or keep going? No, the world record was gone right away. It wasn’t a reasonable option, for me or the team. Perhaps if it had been the last Test of the series and we had been up 1–0, the temptation would have been there to push on and grind the Pakistanis out of thematch, and the series. In Test two at Peshawar, it wasn’t. There were only two choices: to declare, or to go out for a twenty-minute bash the next morning to unsettle their start to the day.
I was leg-weary and worn out and a session with our trainer-masseur Dave Misson was one of the first items on my agenda back at the hotel. I was on a bench with Dave really ripping in when our coach Geoff Marsh came in. ‘Who have you spoken to?’ he said. ‘Have you talked to your Mum and Dad and Jude?’ Swamp was really fired up about the sort of day we had had. ‘No, I’ll ring them back later,’ I answered. ‘No, c’mon . . . let’s ring them now,’ said Swamp, brandishing his ACB charge card. ‘Put it on my room bill.’
So the coach made the calls for me while I was still on the massage table, handing me the phone in each case after he had had something of a chat himself . . .
TONY TAYLOR: Judy and I saw Mark get his century on the first day—on a giant screen at Wentworthville Leagues Club in western Sydney. We were on our way back home from Canberra and I said to Jude, ‘Let’s call into Wenty Leagues and have some dinner and save having to cook when we get home.’ We walked in and there was this huge screen—with Mark in the middle of it! It was about 2–160, and he was on 80 or close to it. So we stayed at the club until he got his 100, then headed off home, absolutely delighted. For us, that was that. We haven’t got Foxtel.
It wasn’t until the next night that we learned the full extent of Mark’s extraordinary innings—when we switched on the TV to watch the evening news. I then sat up until 1.30 a.m. to watch the Channel 9 replay. As I was getting into bed about ten minutes later the phone rang. ‘Hello, I’m looking for Mark Taylor,’ said a strange voice. ‘I haven’t been able to find him all day.’ I thought, who is this idiot?
I could hear the sound of laughter in the background. ‘It’s Geoff
Marsh, Tone,’ the voice said finally. ‘I’ve got a bloke here who wants to talk to you.’ It was Mark, apparently stretched out on a physio table after his marathon innings. After all the congratulations and what have you, I said to him: ‘Well . . . 334 . . . what are you going to do now?’ And Mark said—and I agreed with him—that the main thing was the game had to be won. He said: ‘599 is plenty. If we are good enough, we’ll win from here.’ I believe he had pretty-well made his decision by then. But he told me: ‘The boys want me to go on. They reckon I should forget about the game, go for the 315, beat Lara.’
I still think he made the right call. He considered the options, then made up his mind. It was the way Mark operated as captain.
I asked my wife Judi what she thought about the decision I faced. ‘I’ve got no idea,’ she said. ‘What do you think?’ I asked my mum and dad the same question. ‘Gee, we don’t know,’ they said. ‘Well, that’s not much bloody help,’ I said from my horizontal position. They were right of course: the decision rested entirely in my hands, based on the circumstances in faraway Peshawar. The funny thing is that the fact it was me on 334 made it a bit easier. If it had been, say, Steve Waugh or Michael Slater, it would have been an even harder call. That would have been tougher—to say to another player: ‘Look, I’m sorry. But I’m going to have to cut you short of a world record.’ Obviously no-one in cricket would ever get dirty about circumstances surrounding an innings of 334. But I suppose if a captain did declare on someone on that score there might be some lingering regrets in the years ahead. But that was not how I ever played the game—and it was not the way I wanted the Australian side to play the game either. The team was my only focus and in the end the decision was not so tough at all.
My sister Lisa was one who thought the other way. After she had spoken to Mum and Dad as I lay on the rubbing table she sent me a fax: ‘I keep hearing about you declaring. You’ve got to be kidding.You go out there tomorrow and bat you bloody idiot!’ Lisa had no doubts what I should do.
I didn’t get to talk to my sons, William and Jack, the hour being way past their bedtime. But Judi told me how William, then aged six, had stuck it out until I got to about 290, lying on the lounge in front of the TV. He saw the list of highest Australian scores come up, starting with Graham Yallop’s 268 against Pakistan in Melbourne in 1983–84 and with Sir Donald Bradman on the top with 334.
She told me later how William had come in at first light the next morning to find out what had gone on. ‘What do you reckon Dad got?’ she asked him. ‘335,’ said William. ‘No, 334–but not out,’ said Jude. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘he’s got to get one more, he’s got to make 335.’
TONY TAYLOR (fax to Mark): You never scored 300 in the back yard, even against my bowling!
Early the next day, I broke a personal rule which I applied during the years of my captaincy—not to conduct media interviews during a match, apart from the regulation post-stumps press conferences. Beside the pool at the Pearl Continental I did a ‘live’ cross back to Australia, talking to David Hookes on Foxtel. Heading inside for breakfast after the interview, I took a phone call in the hotel foyer. It was Prime Minister John Howard. ‘What are you going to do?’ he asked me. ‘I’m going to pull up stumps,’ I told him. ‘Yes, I thought you might,’ he said.
There were a few calls from some Pakistani journos and some from India, too. Was I going to bat on? they asked. I answered honestly—and then wondered later in the light of all the bribery and betting allegations whether that had been the right thing to do. Maybe there was some wagering going on whether I would chase the record or not? Some of them seemed quite shocked thatI was leaning towards a declaration—a reaction that reflected the different attitudes towards the game in different places. Then, and in calls and questions I answered from local journos at the end of the third day’s play, there was quite apparent disbelief that with 334 on the board and the bowling at your mercy, you wouldn’t go on and get the world record. There was a feeling that the record belonged to the West Indies through Lara and if there had been a chance to grab it back for Pakistan (or India), it would have been taken with both hands. In Australian cricket we look at things a bit differently. As I told the media at the time: ‘It is the only chance I will ever get to be compared with Sir Donald Bradman and that will do me.’
During the 1999 series between Australia and the West Indies I noted a sign held up in the grandstand at Trinidad one day. It read: Happy Fifth Birthday 375. It was the fifth anniversary to the day of Brian Lara’s record-breaking innings. Could you imagine that happening in Australia? I don’t think so. But it’s very much how people on the subcontinent and in the West Indies feel about world records in cricket, and the prestige of having them in your country.
That we went for the win in Peshawar and didn’t achieve it leaves me with no element of regret today about the decision I made at 2 o’clock that morning. I owed it to the team and to Australian cricket for us to try to win the match, and not to place a personal laurel higher than that. So I declared—and they set about giving us long hours of hard work on a benevolent wicket, amassing 9–580, with Saeed Anwar making 126 and Ijaz Ahmed 155. When we batted for a second time, I found myself immediately back in the ‘zone’, hitting them better from the start than I had in the first innings.
I was back in record territory. Much was made of the fact that Graham Gooch’s Test record aggregate of 456 (against India at Lord’s in 1990, when he scored 333 and 123) was realistically within reach. To beat it, I needed an innings of 123. And when I got to 90 without a hitch, it was looking a genuine chance. I was hitting them so well that maybe I was a bit over-confident and at 92, with Aamir Sohail bowling his left-arm tweak, I tried to pull a ball of full length, caught an inside edge and dragged it back onto my stumps. So I ended up 31 short of the record—after the only record-chasing I did in the match, the chance of a result being by then long since out of the question. I had, perhaps, never hit the ball better in my career. Peter Roebuck wrote a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald at the end of the fourth day, when I was 13 not out, in which he suggested he had never seen my feet move so well in my entire career. I was seeing the ball like a watermelon. Middling every one, whether on front foot or back. Loose and confident, I went for them after lunch and got to my 92 pretty quickly, before Aamir Sohail sneaked that one past me. Sohail, the Pakistan skipper, did a fair bit of bowling that last day and managed to keep his sense of humour. Now and then he would make a passing comment—‘Mark, I think we’ve seen enough now’ . . . ‘Can’t you save some for the next game?’—things like that. So it was a draw . . . in this match that I will surely never forget.
It wasn’t until I got home at the end of the series that the impact my 334 had obviously made back there really hit home. Peter Roebuck had written at the time, ‘As Taylor batted on and on, one could sense a whole nation at one with him’, and it seemed as if it was true. The reaction of both the public and the media to me at this late stage of my cricketing career was extraordinary. I suddenly had to come to terms with the sort of attention that Shane Warne had to live with all the time. I was the same bloke, but it seemed that people now saw me in a new light.
Out of the avalanche of attention came a single, wonderful item—a letter from Sir Donald Bradman, with whom I now shared a new bond. We had both captained Australia at cricket, and now, amazingly, we had both made 334 runs in a Test innings. His had come from 430 balls in 378 minutes, mine from 564 balls in 720 minutes. He hit forty-six fours, I hit thirty-two. I hit one six, he hit none—but I probably lost the battle there too; Sir Donald alwaysreckoned that you should keep the ball on the ground. Then came his letter, replying to an earlier one of mine concerning the Bradman Museum:
16 November 1998
I thank you very much for your kind letter of Nov. 11th.
It is very kind of you to be associated with that small photographic effort which will substantially benefit the Bradman Museum and I am of course happy to lend my signature to the project.
Might I take this opportunity of congratulating you on your wonderful batting performance overseas during which you equalled my 334. It was extremely generous of you to declare when our scores were level—a most sportsmanlike act—when you could have so easily gone on to take the record for yourself
Your recognition of the interests of the team will never be forgotten.
May I wish you personally and the team the best of luck in the forthcoming Tests.
I will always treasure that letter, and, just as much, the memory of my visit to Sir Donald’s home the following December, the story of which is told in Appendix 2 to this book on my life in cricket. For me all of it was culmination, of a cricket journey begun long ago. And far away . . .
Time to Declare tells with unflinching candour Mark Taylor’s story in a fascinating and revealing autobiography. Taking block, Taylor throws new light on the highs and lows, the controversies and the triumphs of a truly remarkable sporting career. By the end of his journey, which included 104 Tests for his country, 7525 runs, and 157 catches, he stood acclaimed as the ‘second most important person in the land’. At the close of Australia’s century there can be no finer story of grit and perseverance and inspiration than that of Mark Taylor captain of his country.
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Mark Taylor’s majestic 334 in a Test match in Peshawar, Pakistan in October 1998 was the last great peak in a cricket career that fluctuated like no other. The innings, ground out over twelve gruelling hours amid the heat and dust, linked Australia’s captain, forever, with the greatest of them all Sir Donald Bradman. For Mark Anthony Taylor, the boy from Leeton, that match of magnificent coincidence was also the beginning of the end. Within months he ws gone from the game, leaving as he had played with quiet style and dignity, amid a welter of national emotion and affection as Prime Minister John Howard crowned him ‘Australian of the Year’. Stretching behind him is a wonderful Australian story of an unpretentious youngster who first played the game of cricket on rough backyard pitches in New South Wales country towns, and who grew from those modest beginnings to become one of the game’s most loved players and one if its greatest captains.Find out more