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The 29-year-old Cantabrian helped set up a comfortable win against the West Indies in the second test at the Basin Reserve with a career high 174.
It was important innings in several different contexts.
The home side was labouring at 78 for three when the left-hander arrived at the crease.
There was no Kane Williamson to help rescue the innings.
New Zealand needed to win to keep its prospects of playing in the World Test Championship final alive.
And then there was all the external pressure mounting from players like Devon Conway and Will Young, who keep scoring runs.
Glenn Phillips and Otago’s Hamish Rutherford can be added to the list of players who would not shame a test spot either.
They are the silent partners who keep driving the team forward, Nicholls said.
"It is great the depth that is going around at the moment," he said.
"It is a great sign that the domestic game is producing players who are ready and raring to go in international cricket.
"[It] keeps pushing the team forward and keeps pushing the players."
Nicholls joined fellow test players who were not involved in the Pakistan T20 series at a training session for the Boxing Day test in Mount Maunganui yesterday.
He was asked about his match-winning century against the West Indies and whether he approached the innings differently.
"I’m just trying to play the way I always play and sometimes that comes off and sometimes it doesn’t," he responded.
"It was nice to be part of that test win and series win, but this is a different opponent, a different ground and starting on Boxing Day, which is another challenge that we have to get ready for during the next couple of days.
"We know heading into these tests they are obviously important in the context of [the World Test Championship]. But any time we play test cricket the focus goes on that individual match and that series."
■ Black Caps spinner Ish Sodhi strained his left hamstring while fielding in the third T20 against Pakistan in Napier on Tuesday night.
He has returned to Christchurch and will have scans to ascertain the extent of the strain, although he is expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Opening batsman Martin Guptill injured a finger while trying to stop a ball in the field in the same match.
The extent of his injury was still being determined yesterday.