Nicholls and Taylor were forced into firefighting responsibilities to prevent another famed batting collapse at this venue.
Henry Nicholls expects the Galle Test to ebb and flow even as he foresees batting getting progressively tougher after a tough initiation to spin on the opening day of the Test series. Between offspinner Akila Dananjaya's five-wicket haul, Nicholls (42) and Ross Taylor (86 not out) added 100 for the fourth wicket to take New Zealand to 203 for 5 before rain forced an early finish to the day's proceedings.
Spin at Galle is the norm, but the visitors were left surprised at how Dananjaya was able to dictate proceedings late into the first session on the first morning after New Zealand elected to bat on Wednesday (August 14). Three wickets fell inside four overs just before lunch, offsetting a steady start from Jeet Raval and Tom Latham, forcing Nicholls and Taylor into firefighting responsibilities to prevent another famed batting collapse at this venue.
"When Ross and I went out after lunch it was a case of keeping it simple and expecting that the ball was going to turn and beat the bat sometimes. It's just being comfortable with that. We did a nice job for a while there," Nicholls said. "We know on these surfaces in the subcontinent when you do get a wicket sometimes it can turn into two or three. Conditions were tough at times. The ball certainly spun a little earlier than we thought, but we expected it to be turning."
Nicholls alluded the recovery to an understanding that as the ball becomes softer, the bite and turn off the surface becomes less pronounced. New Zealand used this knowledge to their advantage in the post-lunch period, with Taylor in particular very judicious in his use of the sweep shot against the other spinners - Dhananjaya de Silva and Lasith Embuldeniya - both of whom conceded over three runs to the over.
"The game ebbed and flowed a bit through that middle session. Ross and I were able to score between 3.5 to 4 an over for a while there. We expect it to be like that - ebbing and flowing. When the ball's a bit harder and it's turning a bit sharper, it will be tougher. But when you bring the seamers back, while they bowled well at times, you were also able to score a bit faster," Nicholls said.
The New Zealand middle-order batsman, however, doffed his hat to Dananjaya, who took all of the wickets to fall on the day, and to his batting partner Taylor for countering the Dananjaya threat while keeping the scoreboard ticking over. "With the ball turning away from left-handers he's got a few options," Nicholls said. "He's a very good bowler as well. He deserved a five-wicket bag today.
"For me, trying to find a balance between defence and being comfortable with the ball turning the way it did, was important. First-innings runs in this part of the world are massive. We're expecting it will get harder to bat on. It's nice that Ross is not out overnight and is batting so beautifully." he said.