Ross Taylor fights off demons with double ton, puts Kiwis in charge vs WI
A maiden double century to put New Zealand in firm command of the first Test against the West Indies on Wednesday proved the sweetest way Ross Taylor could find to "fight off those demons".
Ross Taylor smashed a maiden double century against the West Indies on Wednesday as New Zealand racked up an imposing 609-9 declared, taking a vice-like grip on the first Test in Dunedin.
The tourists made a shaky start to their reply, reduced to 24-2 before recovering to reach 67 without further loss by the close but they face a monumental task to avoid defeat.
A year ago Taylor's morale was hit hard and he went into a self-imposed exile after being dumped as the New Zealand captain.
After his return to Test cricket in March he failed to set the scoreboard alight with his batting form hindered by a troublesome knee that required surgery before this match.
But that changed when the 29-year-old right-hand batsman strode to the wicket on Tuesday to start a marathon 491 minutes at the crease in which he became only the 13th New Zealand batsman to reach 200.
He put away the slog-sweep that has often been his undoing, batting with confidence to surpass his previous highest score -- 154 not out against England at Manchester five years ago -- and lifting his Test average to 45.36.
Taylor was at the crease for more than eight hours, faced 319 balls and hit 23 boundaries without risking a lofted shot.
Four of those boundaries came in one over from Shannon Gabriel as the workload told on the West Indies quicks after a leg muscle strain forced Darren Sammy out of the attack.
Throughout his marathon innings, Taylor offered only one sharp chance when he was dropped on 131 by Kieran Powell at short leg off spinner Shane Shillingford.
"It was nice to fight off those demons," Taylor said, as he rated the innings one of the best he has produced.
"Mentally, it was my best innings with the way I structured it in my head. "The way I started and the frame of mind I was in, I was happy to be able to bat as long as I did.
"I was supported by a lot of batters and it was nice to get to 200."
Taylor produced 23 boundaries in his marathon innings, but there was no lofted risk taking and his one life was a missed chance by Kieran Powell at short leg.
His innings also featured a New Zealand record 195-run fourth wicket stand against the West Indies with new captain Brendon McCullum and Taylor stressing there was no rivalry between the two despite the past.
"No, we're teammates. We want to do well for the team and the country," Taylor said. "There's always going to be that comparison until he retires, or I retire, but we can't control that. We just have to do our best every time."
Tailender Neil Wagner, who made 37 in a 61-run ninth-wicket stand with Taylor, relished the opportunity to see New Zealand's senior batsman back to his best.
"It was an awesome knock," Wagner said. "He played with a lot of freedom and played positive and never game them a chance."
With three days remaining, Taylor has batted New Zealand into a strong position to win their first Test in over a year under McCullum's leadership.
Wagner said the wicket was already showing "inconsistency in the bounce. Some (deliveries) seem to die a bit and some seem to take off".
After New Zealand resumed the day at 367-3, the West Indies made early inroads with the removal of McCullum for 113 and Corey Anderson without scoring.
BJ Watling (41) restored order with Taylor in an 84-run stand for the sixth wicket before the West Indies engineered a second mini breakthrough.
Tino Best claimed the scalp of Watling and Narsingh Deonarine removed Tim Southee for two to have New Zealand at 472-7 before Ish Sodhi (35) and Neil Wagner (37) helped Taylor to get New Zealand past the 600-run milestone.
New Zealand declared at their fourth-highest Test score following the dismissal of Wagner after the tailender and Taylor had belted 34 runs in five overs after the tea break.
The aggressive Best, with his short-pitched deliveries, was the most successful of the West Indies bowlers, returning figures of three for 148 while Sammy and Deonarine finished with two wickets apiece.
The West Indies faced 24 overs before stumps and were quickly in trouble when Trent Boult angled a ball across Kirk Edwards, who edged it straight to Peter Fulton for a regulation slip catch.
Edwards was out for a duck and fellow opener Kieran Powell followed in similar fashion soon after when caught by wicketkeeper Watling for seven.
Darren Bravo, not out 37, and Marlon Samuels on 14, both survived confident appeals as they held the innings together until the close of play.
Boult, who constantly troubled the batsmen, ended the day with 1-7 after bowling five maidens among his eight overs. Southee, the other wicket taker, had 1-15 off seven overs.