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Cricket: Nicholls, Henry stepping up

Henry Nicholls made a crucial 61 at number four for the Black Caps. Photo / Getty
Henry Nicholls made a crucial 61 at number four for the Black Caps. Photo / Getty

Last night's 159-run opening Chappell-Hadlee Trophy win over Australia again proved the New Zealand cricket team has the depth to survive without senior players like Ross Taylor and Tim Southee.

Henry Nicholls and Matt Henry are less-experienced players tasked with filling their pivotal roles. They have performed admirably, and offered further evidence that the inclusive New Zealand environment constructed in the Mike Hesson-Brendon McCullum era is paying dividends. If you will permit a corporate term, they operate on more of a flat structure compared to the more hierarchical systems of the past.

No one is indispensable in most fields of life, and the Black Caps are no different. Taylor and Southee's respective pedigrees are established, but Nicholls and Henry have convinced.

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Nicholls' 61 off 67 balls yesterday, and match-winning 82 against Pakistan in Wellington underlined his status as a fledgling No.4. Henry's three for 41 off six overs yesterday and 18 wickets at 13.88 and an economy rate of 4.65 since Boxing Day have intertwined aggression and composure, even if he can't break into the World T20 squad.

Henry has been in the team ranks for two years in various capacities while Nicholls has yet to clock up two months, but the pair of 24-year-old Cantabrians have benefitted from a welcoming group hug.

"We've got some senior guys out, but [having the depth] is something we pride ourselves on," Nicholls said.

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"It's my third series but first summer with the team. It's a great culture. Guys look after each other, making it easy to trust your performance and contribute to team wins."

Nicholls said that helped when he was posted at cow corner and he caught Matthew Wade swinging across the line.

"It felt like a huge crowd which was normally noisy, but when that ball went up they went quiet. It was nice to enjoy that moment. When I first played, I dreaded it, but I've got more confidence now."

Henry preferred to mollify anyone looking to talk about a chasm in ability between the teams.

"I wouldn't say they folded, it just came down to a half-hour period when things really went our way and we bowled well in a partnership. They're still a great side with a strong batting lineup. They are world No.1 and I think they'll be up for the next one.

"We've just made sure we're focusing on the small things, individual plans, and it's not always going to swing, or swing for long with the white ball. It's just making sure we're putting it in the areas for long enough to create pressure."

- NZ Herald

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