Henry Nicholls has opened with aplomb as he begins his extended audition for a spot at the top of the New Zealand one-day order — but he'll need to maintain that level to be secure of a long-term place in the side.

Nicholls' 78 off 82 balls helped set up Ross Taylor and Tom Latham's match-winning knocks as the Black Caps produced their biggest ODI run chase against India on Wednesday. It was his best innings as an opener; a role in which he has yet to be given a consistent opportunity.

He now has some short-term security, with Will Young still returning from injury, Colin Munro unlikely to earn a recall and George Worker yet to prove he can score quickly enough for international level.

But look at the longer picture, and with Wellington star Devon Conway becoming eligible for international selection in September, it could be Nicholls' spot most at threat.


Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Taylor and Latham are all unlikely to be shunted around the order, leaving Nicholls' place under question when the South African-born Conway is available to be picked — and he will be picked.

The Black Caps selectors hardly have a choice given the weight of domestic runs Conway has put up, scoring a competition-leading 551 one-day runs at an average of 61.3 this season, to go alongside absurd averages of 140.5 in four-dayers and 67.9 in Twenty20.

So the upcoming one-day matches loom as an important opportunity for Nicholls to stamp his mark, and he did so in Hamilton, sweeping well against the spinners and rotating the strike regularly to ensure the required run rate didn't get out of hand in their chase of 348.

Henry Nicholls' 78 helped set up the Black Caps' win on Wednesday. Photo / Photosport
Henry Nicholls' 78 helped set up the Black Caps' win on Wednesday. Photo / Photosport

While happy to bat anywhere — "I'm comfortable with whatever," he claimed — Nicholls strikes a good balance between aggression and strike rotation compared with other opening options. When in form, he profiles as an ideal partner for Guptill, who, just quietly, hasn't passed 35 in his last 10 ODI innings.

With three ODIs coming up against Australia before trips to Scotland, Ireland and the West Indies, Nicholls deserves an uninterrupted run in the side to show what he's capable of, especially given the disjointed nature of his first crack at the job.

Thrown in at the top of the order to replace Munro late in the World Cup build-up, Nicholls looked likely to keep that role for the entire tournament, only for an untimely hamstring injury to scupper those chances. When later recalled after Munro's continued failures, he was then heaved into the fire against the Australian and English bowling attacks, and while he produced handy contributions in the World Cup semifinal and final, coming into Wednesday's ODI, Nicholls was averaging 28 at a 63 strike rate as an opener.

So to break those shackles in a record run chase would have been extremely satisfying, and Nicholls is hoping to go even better as he links up with Guptill again in the second ODI starting this afternoon at Eden Park.

"I'm sort of used to batting in a few different spots but it's been nice to be opening, even coming into the series opening for Canterbury and having those games under the belt," Nicholls said.


"I'm just trying to form that partnership at the top. It's great to have Gup at the top with the experience and quality he brings. That platform is really important for us through that powerplay."

The Black Caps are set to make one change for today's match, with seamer Kyle Jamieson to make his ODI debut in place of spinner Ish Sodhi.