By Niall Anderson at the Basin Reserve
He might not have been the Canterbury left-hander on everyone's lips at the end of the day, but Henry Nicholls displayed another reason why the Black Caps are so positive about their test cricket future.
Nicholls' 50 on day three of the first test against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve was his fourth half-century in his last six test innings, continuing a run where he's well and truly locked down his spot as a mainstay of the middle order.
The number five spot is now Nicholls' to make his own, with his effort today following a stellar tour of the United Arab Emirates, where he averaged 57.4 in six innings against Pakistan.
There, Nicholls played two match-changing innings in the Black Caps' two test victories.
His 55 in the second innings of the first test was part of a vital partnership with BJ Watling, and his unbeaten 126 in the deciding match saw him team up with Kane Williamson to save the visitors from disaster and claim a stunning comeback victory.
If that was a coming-of-age tour, his return home gave him a chance to build upon a run which has seen him go from an uncertain prospect to an expected contributor.
Nicholls averaged just 24.2 in his first year in test cricket, before coming into his own in 2017, where he averaged 41.9. 2018 has seen him reach a new level, averaging 61.9 and being the most consistent contributor outside of the peerless Kane Williamson.
There was no need to be the saviour in Wellington, coming to the crease at 312-3, and getting to bat in excellent conditions and against a limp bowling attack.
After a few loose shots to begin, Nicholls began to build into the innings – as has been his custom of late, with the 27-year-old sometimes vulnerable early on, but offering fewer chances as he beds in.
Some flowing shots followed as he reached 50 for the 11th time in tests, but any hopes of back-to-back test centuries disappeared when he holed out to long-on, trying to increase the tempo.
By then though, he had added 114 for the fourth wicket with Latham, and had well and truly scuppered any Sri Lankan hopes of finding a way back into the test.
Considering the favourable situation, Nicholls would have been annoyed to not push on, but when half-centuries can be classed as disappointing, well, that's not a bad problem for the Black Caps to have.