File photo of New Zealand batsmen Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum.
Dunedin: A maiden double century to put New Zealand in firm command of the first Test against the West Indies proved the sweetest way Ross Taylor could find to "fight off those demons".
Taylor was unbeaten on 217 when New Zealand declared at 609 for 9 in the final session of day two at University Oval in Dunedin.
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.
"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 team-mates. 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."