By Niall Anderson at the Basin Reserve
As the Black Caps piled on the runs on day two against Sri Lanka, Jeet Raval must have been wondering what could have been.
Raval's frustrating start to the test season continued today at the Basin Reserve, with the Black Caps opener once again getting off to a good start, but failing to convert it into a long-awaited big innings.
Having played positively to reach 43, Raval fell on the final ball before lunch, getting baited into an unnecessary pull shot by Lahiru Kumara, and offering an edge through to the keeper.
The usually calm Raval was furious at himself as he walked off, knowing that he had missed out on his big opportunity to cash in against a pedestrian Sri Lankan bowling attack - an opportunity that those who followed him made the most of.
It's been over a year since Raval last raised his bat, and while the established focus on half-centuries and conversion rates is incredibly arbitrary, it's still an unwanted run for the 30-year-old.
Since he notched 84 against the West Indies last December, Raval's results aren't flattering - 4, 3, 5, 17, 7, 46, 31, 2, 45, 0 and 43.
The numbers tell the story – there have been plenty of starts recently, where Raval often looks good, playing his strokes and collecting boundaries. But when it comes to turn promise into production, for whatever reason, Raval hasn't been able to convert.
Therein lies the Jeet Raval conundrum – he's scoring just enough runs to keep hanging around. At the moment, he's a replacement-level opener – a perfectly adequate option, but one whose record would ideally be improved upon.
Instead, it's likely that improvement will need to come from the bat of Raval himself. There are few options to replace him, unless the selectors go back to Hamish Rutherford, who, as an aside, was run out for 63 in truly bizarre fashion in the Plunket Shield today.
Considering the years of struggle the Black Caps went through with their test opening options, Raval's average of 34.25 will surely be enough to hold his place for the entire home summer. Additionally, he and Tom Latham did their job well today, seeing off the new ball, adding 59 for the first wicket, and denting Sri Lanka's hopes of a much-needed quick start.
The pair also allowed Kane Williamson to sit comfortably in the pavilion until lunch, and the eventual 162-run partnership between Latham and Williamson could be seen from two perspectives – either Raval's contribution helped set up that stand, or he missed out on the perfect opportunity for a big score.
Just another puzzle in the Jeet Raval conundrum.