Cricket: When Henry Nicholls came of age

By David Leggat, in Wellington

Henry Nicholls celebrates his debut century. Photo / Photosport
Henry Nicholls celebrates his debut century. Photo / Photosport

Henry Nicholls did more than make his biggest impact for New Zealand in his year of international cricket at the Basin Reserve yesterday.

He effectively closed the debate on whether he belonged in test cricket - at least for the time being.

Nicholls' merits as a test batsman have been scrutinized since he made his debut against Australia, also at the Basin 13 months ago.

He marked that occasion with a gritty second innings half century, spending three hours and 134 balls over 59 in a crunching innings defeat.

There was a notable performance against South Africa at Centurion last August, when he top scored with 76 in another hefty loss, by 204 runs, battling just over four hours against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada.

Throw in 54 against Bangladesh at the Basin in January, followed by 98 in the next test at Christchurch and there were encouraging signs that Nicholls was starting to settle in.

But he needed a significant contribution, and provided it yesterday as his 118 anchored New Zealand's 268 against South Africa in demanding batting conditions.

It was a top notch innings, full of confident, assertive strokes, emphasising a philosophy Nicholls wants to keep adopting.

''I guess I always look to be positive and be really decisive in my decision-making. Today more so than I have been in the past," Nicholls, 25, said last night.

''The message from Hess (coach Mike Hesson) was to be really confident in my game and that's something I'm looking to do on a consistent basis."

Other names have been floated as possible replacements as Nicholls' form fluctuated.
The most prominent is Auckland's swashbuckling lefthander Colin Munro, whose first-class average is an impressive 51.85 from 44 matches with 12 centuries.

But Munro blotted his copybook with a one-game ban after poor behaviour in a Plunket Shield game against Canterbury and while he can be among the country's most damaging batsmen, the danger is his face doesn't fit for the national selectors, certainly in a test capacity.

Martin Guptill, looking at reinventing himself as a middle order option after being dropped as test opener, is sidelined to recuperate from hamstring injuries but is likely to make a solid push next season.

Dean Brownlie, another possibility, is also injured.

Nicholls effectively shut down the argument anyway yesterday. His test average received a handy boost, up to 35 on the strength of his century.

With the ton should come greater self-confidence in his capabilities. The future looks bright for the Cantabrian.

- NZ Herald

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