WELLINGTON: Henry Nicholls of New Zealand rode his luck to post a vital century as the hosts, depleted by Kane Williamson’s defeat, endured a rocky start to cross 294 for six on day one of Friday’s second test against the West Indies.
As he broke a 21-month run of low scores with his sixth Test century, Nicholls, 29, survived many dropped catches at Basin Reserve.
Nicholls was 117 at stumps not out with all-rounder Kyle Jamieson on one. Nicholls said New Zealand now claimed that 400 would be ‘a decent outcome’ from being on the ropes at 78-3.
Within four days, New Zealand won the first test on the back of Williamson’s towering 252, but now they are playing without their talismanic captain, who is on paternity leave waiting for his first child to be born.
It was left to Nicholls to prop up the innings, but when a broken stump mic stopped a review, he had to survive dropped catches and even a mechanical error, to bat New Zealand out of a pit.
Nicholls said, explaining how he blocked out his near-misses from his memory, “You just try and move on from them the same as when you hit a boundary or anything else.” “It’s just batting, it’s cricket, it’s pretty fickle, so I just keep concentrating on what I’m doing, bringing back more spells from their bowlers.”
At the beginning of the day when Jason Holder won the toss and had New Zealand bat on an emerald surface with cloud cover and a howling northern wind, all went the way of the West Indies.
Shannon Gabriel and debutant Chemar Holder led an attack after a few costly early overs, which had New Zealand pinned down in the first 90 minutes with three wickets.
The pitch gave pace, bounce and seam movement and they were almost unplayable when the bowlers found a decent length and pushed the ball.
But when the odds appeared to be against the Black Caps, Nicholls, out-of-form, stepped up.
The sun emerged as he joined Will Young in the east, the breeze faded and the momentum swayed the way of New Zealand.
When the amount rose, so did the number of spectators in the mostly coronavirus-free nation with more than 3,500 on the field by late afternoon without crowd restrictions.
Nicholls played his way through a short-ball barrage, hitting 50 in 14 innings for the first time, but riding his luck when chances were shed and nicks dropped in the land of no-man.
Once on the 21st and twice on the 47th, he was dropped, while on the 29th, the top edge of six sailed just outside the reach of Jermaine Blackwood, who had advanced some metres from the boundary.
After an earlier throw at the wickets, a shout for Nicholls to be sent caught behind on 70 was turned down after the stump microphone had cracked, leaving no way for the ball tracker to detect whether there was a slight edge.
It typified his reckless innings as Nicholls crossed his century when he formed to spin the ball through midwicket but on the off side top-edged it for two.
Gabriel was clearly disappointed in his 50th test when Darren Bravo dropped Nicholls on 47, but he had cause to grin in his next over when Jason Holder trapped Young at second slip for 43.
Nicholls had alliances of 70 with Young, 55 with B.J. Watling, and 83 with Mitchell’s Daryl.
On the 30th, Watling wrote his own doom when he cut a big delivery of Alzarri Joseph on his stumps, when Mitchell was stuck in front of Chemar Holder for 42.
Gabriel was the bowlers’ choice, finished with three for 57 before lunch before Young became his 150th Test dismissal since dismissing Tom Blundell (14) and Ross Taylor (9) before lunch.
In the first session, Chemar Holder dismissed Tom Latham (27) and finished the day with two for 65.
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings):
T.W.M. Latham c da Silva C. Holder 27
T.A. Blundell b Gabriel 14
W.A. Young c J. Holder b Gabriel 43
L.R.P.L. Taylor c da Silva b Gabriel 9
H.M. Nicholls not out 117
B.J. Watling b Joseph 30
D.J. Mitchell lbw b C. Holder 42
K.A. Jamieson not out 1
EXTRAS (B-2, LB-6, W-3) 11
TOTAL (for six wkts, 84 overs) 294
FALL OF WKTS: 1-31, 2-63, 3-78, 4-148, 5-203, 6-286.
TO BAT: T.G. Southee, N. Wagner, T.A. Boult.
BOWLING (to-date): Gabriel 18-5-57-3; J.O. Holder 22-5-62-0; Joseph 17-2-65-1 (2w); C.K. Holder 18-1-65-2 (1w); Chase 9-1-37-0.
WEST INDIES: K.C. Brathwaite, J.D. Campbell, D.M. Bravo, S.S.J. Brooks, R.L. Chase, J. Blackwood, J. da Silva, J.O. Holder, A.S. Joseph, S.T. Gabriel, C.K. Holder.
UMPIRES: C.B. Gaffaney (New Zealand) and C.M. Brown (New Zealand).
TV UMPIRE: W.R. Knights (New Zealand).
MATCH REFEREE: J.J. Crowe (New Zealand).