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Henry Nicholls makes the step up in Kane Williamson’s absence

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“More than a hundred, I needed to bat longer,” he says after overcoming form slump

Henry Nicholls survived tough conditions at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, carrying New Zealand to a position of strength despite being asked to bat first. Nicholls, unbeaten on 117 at stumps on the first day of the second Test against West Indies, said it was crucial for the rest of the batting group to step up given the absence of Kane Williamson, the captain and their best batsman. Williamson is on paternity leave, having led New Zealand to an innings-and-134-run victory in the first Test in Hamilton.

Nicholls’ century took New Zealand to 294 for 6, and also meant he shrugged off a slump of sorts, having gone nine Tests and 13 innings without passing fifty. The last time he crossed a half-century was against Bangladesh in March 2019 at the same venue, when he had hit 107.

“It’s nice to contribute, [as I] probably haven’t in the last few games as much as I wanted,” Nicholls told the host broadcaster after the first day’s play. “[I’ve been] pretty lucky that the team and the other batters have been playing so well. But without Kane here in this game, it was important for us as a group to stand up. So that’s all I was trying to focus on – just keep it pretty simple [and] bat for long periods. It’s nice to be not out overnight and looking again into tomorrow.”

Nicholls rode his luck during the innings with dropped catches and half chances, but also ensured he capitalised when the ball was in his area. Even his century came with a leading edge through point when looking to go through midwicket.

“It’s a funny thing with the hundred, it’s such a milestone. But for me it was just trying to keep it really simple and realise that more than a hundred, I needed to bat longer.”Henry Nicholls

“Probably a fitting way to bring it up,” he smiled. “[There was] certainly enough there for the bowlers throughout the day, so you just try and bounce it as a batter and say, ‘Sometimes it’s going to beat the bat and sometimes you’re in luck, or it’s not.’ So it was certainly nice to get there and nice to be not out overnight.

“It’s a funny thing with the hundred, it’s such a milestone. But for me, it was just trying to keep it really simple and realise that more than a hundred, I needed to bat longer. So it’s just [about] trying to put that into context. Nice to get through that [and] have a little luck. That’s cricket sometimes.”

Nicholls’ method also involved leaving a lot of balls outside off, with the pace and bounce in the surface – “more than usual” as per the left-hander – meaning he could leave on a length comfortably enough. It was also a pitch where he thought his own side would enjoy bowling on.

“I was trying to leave well, make them bowl straighter,” Nicholls said. “It’s pleasing when you’re able to do that. Certainly, at times you’re tested on this sort of surface. I think the pace in the wicket amplifies that. When you get a few loose ones, you’re able to score. Sometimes you’re just trying to keep your tempo going as a batter.

“The biggest thing for me was to just to try to keep to what I was doing. Not if you hit a few boundaries you feel like you could hit more. Because you just knew that if they bowled in a good area for long enough, there was a chance that they’re going to take the edge, which they did throughout the day. So yeah, it’s a surface we’re still looking forward to bowling on, but hopefully not too early tomorrow.”

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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