New Zealand coach Gary Stead keeps door open for Henry Nicholls despite Test squad omission

Blackcaps trio Kane Williamson, Tom Blundell, and Kyle Jamieson are on track for return from hamstring woes and should be available for the First Test against the inexperienced Proteas side.

Sarah Andrew
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Gary Stead has urged Nicholls to grind his way back into the Test setup.

Gary Stead has urged Nicholls to grind his way back into the Test setup.

New Zealand's middle-order stalwart, Henry Nicholls, has been axed from the Test squad for the upcoming South Africa series, marking a significant shift in selection. The 32-year-old's form has nosedived since March 2023, with 11 Test matches yielding not a single score above 40. Nicholls, a mainstay in the Blackcaps lineup since his 2016 debut, has averaged a paltry 16.6 in this lean period, a far cry from his career average of 37.16.

Head coach Gary Stead acknowledged the tough decision but stated that it is by no means the end of Nicholls' Test career, especially considering that he is still only 32. "His currency is weight of runs, isn't it? To do that in domestic cricket and show that he's the next person in line is still really possible to do. He's still relatively young in his career- he's only early 30s- we definitely don't see it as the end for him. It's definitely a setback but there's no reason why he can't make it back again," Stead said.

This opens the door for young gun Rachin Ravindra, who impressed during the World Cup, to make his Test comeback. Ravindra has played three Tests without much success but his recent returns, especially in the ODI World Cup in India and the belief that he is a generational player, has gone in his favour. "We just felt it was time for Rachin in Test cricket and we obviously know the talent he is and feel that he will make a really good fist of it at this stage of his career," Stead said when asked about Ravindra's selection.

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Meanwhile, Stead expressed optimism that star trio Kane Williamson, Tom Blundell, and Kyle Jamieson will be fit and firing for the first Test against South Africa, starting February 4th. All three are on the mend after hamstring niggles, and their return would bolster New Zealand's lineup significantly.
"The three guys with injury concerns- Kane, Kyle and Tom- I've spoken to them all. They are all tracking really well. All training hard. Kyle starts playing, Tom Blundell has had a couple of big days of training, which is encouraging that he has got through that without any further feeling in his hamstring. So, we are really confident that him and Kane will be ready for the first Test," he said.
NZvsSA Henry Nicholls