Henry Nicholls’ battling ton puts New Zealand ahead on tough pitch

Source: Cricinfo

by SportsDiction – 11 , December, 2020

New Zealand 294 for 6 (Nicholls 117*, Young 43, Mitchell 42, Gabriel 3-57, Chemar Holder 2-65) vs West Indies.

It’s unlikely Henry Nicholls will score a scratchier, more fortune-laden hundred, but runs are runs, and they’re worth even more when they come on a greentop offering pace, bounce and seam movement. Nicholls’ innings ensured New Zealand wrested control of the second Test away from West Indies, who had begun the opening day positively with their fast bowlers, led by Shannon Gabriel in his 50th Test, enjoying the help on offer at the Basin Reserve.

At stumps, New Zealand were 294 for 6, with Nicholls batting on 117.

Nicholls, who had come to the crease some ten minutes before lunch, survived a difficult period at the start of the second session, when Alzarri Joseph peppered him with short balls from over the wicket, pitching in the left-hander’s blind spot outside leg stump and attacking the area between his hip and shoulder. There was a top-edged pull that fell in no-man’s land, a short-leg catch that didn’t stick in Shamarh Brooks’ hands, and a hooked six that could have been a catch at long leg had Jermaine Blackwood stayed on the rope rather than move some 10 yards in.

Then Gabriel and the debutant Chemar Holder, who had been the pick of West Indies’ bowlers before lunch, returned and created a rash of chances that, on another day, would have earned them more than just one wicket between them. On this day, both Gabriel – with a length ball slanted across him – and Chemar Holder – with a full one that straightened from around the wicket – found Nicholls’ outside edge only for Darren Bravo to put him down both times at first slip.

All the luck notwithstanding, there was plenty to admire about Nicholls’ innings, especially his discipline outside off stump, and the positive intent he showed when the ball was in his favoured areas: particularly against the short ball, ironically. As his innings progressed, it felt as if his early wobbles against that form of attack had led West Indies to overuse it, erroneously, especially given that their successes early in the day had come via bowling full lengths.