As the light is all but extinguished on one notable New Zealand test career, another flame will be lit on a new one at the Basin Reserve next week.

The match will be Brendon McCullum's world record-setting 100th successive test, and, fitness permitting, his second last; and it will almost certainly be Henry Nicholls' first, selection permitting.

As it happens, compact left-hander Nicholls looks the man earmarked to replace McCullum in the No 5 spot, but should he make his debut at the Basin, it will be at No 4.

The seasoned Ross Taylor's side injury has counted him out.


The arrival of a new test player is always fascinating. Forget short-form selections. The launching of a test career invariably carries with it intriguing questions. Will he make it? Is he up to it?

Nicholls' progress during the limited-overs programme against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia suggests New Zealand have found their new face in the batting lineup.

And it's a healthy sign too, on top of Mitchell Santner's development over the past nine months as the first-choice allrounder, at 24, albeit in the injury-enforced absence of Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham.

Nicholls has made two half centuries in his past three innings and they were timely.

At Wellington against Pakistan, New Zealand were listing at 99 for six when Nicholls and Santner put on 79 to help push New Zealand to a winning 280.

That 82 in 111 balls was followed by a 67-ball 61, as part of a 100-run stand in 73 balls with Martin Guptill at Eden Park against Australia on Wednesday.

Nicholls has much work to do yet. He has been susceptible to playing with an angled bat outside his off stump to the seamers.

Twice he has dragged balls on to his stumps. But he bats with a degree of composure, a trait he shares with Santner.

New Zealand have used four fast-medium specialist bowlers in their past two tests at home, against Sri Lanka before Christmas.

In the three tests in Australia, they opted for three plus medium pacer Neesham in Brisbane, which badly backfired when Neesham's back gave out and Tim Southee was crocked too; four quicks on the Perth highway and three in the day-night Adelaide test, plus two spinners.

They have five specialists in their squad of 13 - plus a bracket for wicketkeepers BJ Watling and Luke Ronchi, with Watling on the mend from a back issue - at the Basin.

Throw in Anderson, fit again and a useful seam bowling asset, and two of Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell and Anderson will miss out. Bracewell has been the third choice all summer, after Southee and Trent Boult. Henry is in fine form; Wagner's indefatigable qualities are well known.

Choices, choices.

The selection suggests the expectation is for some pace and bounce for the seamers at the Basin and Hagley Oval for the second test. Australia won't mind that.

And that also means room for only one spinner. With Santner coming on smartly, offspinner Mark Craig is out.

Getting back in may be a challenge, although India are on the touring horizon for late this year, when an absolute minimum of two spinners will be on the plane.