By Niall Anderson in Taunton
Henry Nicholls is back from injury and ready to play against Afghanistan – if the Black Caps selectors want him.
Nicholls has recovered from a hamstring injury that saw him miss the Black Caps' first two matches at the Cricket World Cup, with coach Gary Stead confirming he was available for selection tomorrow at Taunton.
Understood to have edged out Colin Munro as the first-choice opener coming into the tournament, Nicholls' setback gave Munro a chance to stake his claim to support Martin Guptill throughout the Cup.
The partnership worked superbly in their opening game against Sri Lanka, as the pair combined for an unbeaten 137-run stand in the Black Caps' 10-wicket win, but Munro wasn't entirely assured in his 47-ball 58, and then didn't flatter in making 24 off 34 balls against Bangladesh.
As a result, Afghanistan could prove a perfect platform for Nicholls to make his return, and try and find some form before what will be possibly the toughest test of pool play, when the Black Caps take on India in Nottingham on Thursday.
At some stage, Nicholls could be an option in the middle order as well, likely at the expense of either Colin de Grandhomme or Jimmy Neesham. New Zealand would need to get 10 overs out of the remaining seam all-rounder and potentially part-time offerings from Munro or Kane Williamson, but the move could aid the balance of the team, especially with Neesham's early returns at the bowling crease not convincing.
"Part of the squad we've selected is making sure we've got people we can pull in and out of different positions, and Henry's one guy who we think can cover different bases for us," said head coach Gary Stead.
"It depends on what we think is the right balance, against different opposition - and what we think the opposition may throw at us as well."
Nicholls' return would likely be the only change to the Black Caps XI for the clash tomorrow, with a brief look at the wicket before rain fell revealing a colour likely too green to consider Ish Sodhi, while Tim Southee is aiming to be available to play India.
"We're really hopeful with the way he's progressing that for the Indian game he should be right. I'm sure when Tim's back at his best he'll be putting the pressure on us to be selected," said Stead.
And, Stead also confirmed that there's no plan to rest any of their frontline players throughout the tournament.
"Our planning is for all players to be able to play every game, as part of our conditioning program. If we feel that players do need a rest or would do best from freshening up, we would consider it, but I think when you get to the World Cup you want to play what team you think is the best right throughout."
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT