Henry Nicholls pushed on to 74 as New Zealand recovered to 160-5 by tea against the Proteas in Wellington.
It was the middle-order knock the Black Caps so desperately craved, following doubts surrounding how they would cope without the injured Ross Taylor in the side.
It wasn’t looking good at all for the Kiwis in the morning session at the Basin Reserve, as skipper Kane Williamson, to whose bat the public were appending the large majority of their hopes, perished for two. Taylor’s replacement, debutant Neil Broom, fell for a duck, both thanks to a fiery new-ball spell from Kagiso Rabada.
That left the hosts on 73-4 going to lunch after a decent response from Jeet Raval (36). Nicholls, coming in at No 5, continued the hard work, as only one wicket fell in the second session.
Nicholls and Jamie Neesham built up a 28-run stand before the fifth wicket fell, as Neesham pushed down the track and overbalanced himself, prompting a sharp bit of work behind the stumps from Quinton de Kock, who saw the all-rounder depart for an 18-ball 15.
BJ Watling, often one to drag New Zealand out of a batting slump, got to work with Nicholls, as the latter produced a series of counter-attacking blows that led to him raising his bat for fifty, off just 66 balls.
Maharaj bowled almost entirely throughout the session, but he couldn’t add to his two wickets as Nicholls and Watling (21) settled for a decent 59-run stand going into the final session.
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