Which New Zealand player has made the biggest strides this season among the newer faces in the test squad?

Those who operate outside centre stage, who don't often capture the headlines?

Perhaps Jeet RavaI, who has made a good fist of his first summer as a test opener, averaging 44.81.

Or Henry Nicholls, breaking through with his first test century, at Wellington against South Africa.


And what about Matt Henry, who showed at Seddon Park that he lacks little in comparison with the bigger names among the seam bowling group when given a rare chance.

Or how about Colin de Grandhomme, the allrounder whom most people were scratching their heads over at the start of the home summer.

ODI player? Yes. T20? Yes. His hitting and tidy seam bowling could certainly do a job. But test allrounder? That seemed a stretch.

So the 30-year-old Aucklander went out and proved the doubters wrong.

He finished his first six tests with a batting average of 25.75, bolstered by his best test innings, 57 at Seddon Park, and 16 wickets with his medium pace seamers at 25.56.

De Grandhomme certainly left his best till last with the bat; the 57 was a measured innings which rammed home the advantage New Zealand had built in the first two innings of the test.

Conversely his test bowling career took off on the first day of the home season, six for 41 against Pakistan at Hagley Oval.

He will need to build on his first taste of test cricket but as a first dipping of the toes into the arena, de Grandhomme has come through with a solid pass mark.

He gets movement off the pitch - coach Mike Hesson and fellow selector Gavin Larsen are fond of referring to de Grandhomme's bowling as "nibbling" - and he nags the batsmen.

He opened the bowling in both the Wellington and Hamilton tests against South Africa and made a significant impact against the top order.

South African opener Dean Elgar kicked off the test series with a man of the match-winning double of 140 and 89 - in the one test de Grandhomme sat out in the summer.

In the last two tests, de Grandhomme dismissed the lefthander three times in four innings, caught by wicketkeeper BJ Watling, once at second slip and bowled once.

In those three innings, Elgar, who is no slouch, scored three runs off 26 balls from de Grandhomme. He effectively removed an in-form opener from the equation in New Zealand's eyes.

"I thought he bowled superbly in the second and third tests," Hesson said, pointing out his six wickets in those matches were Elgar three times, Hashim Amla twice and captain Faf du Plessis. No batting mugs in that group.

"Colin's bowling 125km/h, tops. But he's a very clever, skilful bowler.

"He's taking batsmen's top order wickets and can't be underestimated. His batting will continue to develop with confidence and he will have got a lot out of [his 57 on Tuesday]."

De Grandhomme, who came to New Zealand from Zimbabwe 11 years ago, has been around the domestic circuit 10 years. He had a brief taste of international limited-overs cricket five years ago.

Once that passed, he seemed to have become another of those players who passed briefly across the international stage before settling back into the domestic game.

But Hesson said he and fellow selector Gavin Larsen had him in their sights for some time.

"It's only in the last 12 to 18 months when he stepped up in terms of his consistency.

"We've got a lot of confidence in him and want to give him a number of opportunities to prove that.

"He hasn't come in as an injury replacement. He's come in due to performance and he's an integral part of the side."