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Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

England look to prolific Taylor

By Aimee Lewis

Claire Taylor
Taylor scored an unbeaten 156 against India at Lord's in 2006

It is hard to believe that the leading batter in the women's game initially struggled to adapt to the rigours of international cricket.

"Technically and tactically I wasn't ready," says Claire Taylor, who made her England debut against Australia back in 1998.

The 33-year-old from Amersham averaged only 15 after her first 10 one-day internationals but has since gone on to amass seven hundreds in 102 appearances and four centuries in 14 Tests.

Taylor, who writes inspirational messages on her arms to help her get through an innings, is number one in the ICC women's rankings and undoubtedly now belongs on the world stage.

There is tangible proof of that at Lord's where a large poster of the right-hander hangs alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Vivian Richards.

She became the first female cricketer to appear on the 'hall of fame' board after her unbeaten 156 against India last summer became the highest one-day score at the home of cricket.

But Taylor admits she was not always sure she would make the grade, describing herself at the start of her England career as naive and awestruck by teammates, some of whom had won the Women's World Cup in 1993.

If we can win the world cup that will be a springboard to a huge amount of publicity and huge amount of interest in the game

Claire Taylor

However, her outlook changed when she made her World Cup debut in 2000 in New Zealand.

"I realised that if I was to compete with the Australians and New Zealanders I would have to get better," she said.

"I was already very professional in my outlook but in order to be a better player I knew I had to be more technically able and a more effective batter."

Taylor, an Oxford graduate, is now one of the senior members of the England team, and, according to wicketkeeper Lauren Griffiths, the most competitive.

"She never wants to lose at anything and that's what makes her the world-class player she is," Griffiths told BBC Sport.

Taylor's drive for perfection inspires the younger members of the squad and she is all too aware of her senior status in a team brimming with talent.

Taylor, who juggles training with her job as a management consultant at the University of Reading, told BBC Sport: "My game has changed as I've got older. Hopefully I've become more responsible and more aware of how I play and how others play around me.

"I want to be batting when we finish the game, or I want to bat and make a big impact on the game.

Claire Taylor
Taylor represented England's hockey team at U-17 and U-19 level

"I know more about how the game works, how the game plan works. The team ethic means more to me than personal goals."

Taylor averages 59.11 in World Cup matches and knows how to prepare and handle the unique pressures which surround the showpiece event.

She is confident England can do in Australia this month, even though the hosts are favourites to retain the trophy.

"It's the best England team I have played with. The team I first joined had some really great players but this is the best. It's a young team too. We know we all need to perform," she said.

"Playing in a tournament means you only get to play each team once. You get one chance against their bowlers and you don't have as much information on your opponents as you would going into a series of matches.

"In a series you can see where bowlers like to put a ball, what shapes they put on the ball. You know where the field is going to be set so you can think beforehand how they're going to react.

"When you play tournament cricket you don't have this information so you play slightly differently.

"If we can win the World Cup that will be a springboard to a huge amount of publicity and huge amount of interest in the game."

So successful have England been over the last 12 months - they headed to Australia unbeaten in 15 one-day internationals - it seems that they have already generated more column inches and air time than ever before.

But while Taylor welcomes the obvious benefits greater publicity would have on the women's game, she is also thankful for not having to deal with what she calls the downside, of "people knowing who you are and stopping you in the street".

If England do hoist the Women's World Cup aloft on 22 March, however, she may have to get used to a little more of the limelight.

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see also
Women's World Cup teams guide
01 Mar 09 |  Women's cricket
Taylor tops women's cricket list
16 Oct 08 |  Women's cricket
Taylor ton earns Lord's honour
19 Oct 06 |  Women's cricket
England women win to retain Ashes
18 Feb 08 |  Women's cricket
England women seal series victory
04 Sep 08 |  Women's cricket
Edwards seals England clean sweep
23 Aug 08 |  Women's cricket
England women regain series lead
10 Feb 08 |  Women's cricket

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