Tom Latham's discipline inspires carpool buddy Henry Nicholls

Henry Nicholls and Tom Latham walk off the field AFP

Two Christchurch boys putting on a 214-run stand on their home ground, in a Boxing Day Test - one learning off the other. This is roughly how Henry Nicholls summed up his fourth-wicket stand with friend Tom Latham, on a third day in which New Zealand took the second Test against Sri Lanka by the collar.

Both batsmen made big hundreds; Latham produced 176 to follow his 264 not out in Wellington, while Nicholls hit a career-best 162 not out, two Tests after his most recent ton in Abu Dhabi, a world away.

In this innings, Nicholls, who began cautiously against the second new ball before gaining momentum after lunch, said Latham's discipline had "inspired" him.

"It was pretty special to be out there for so long with Tommy," Nicholls said. "We're really great mates, we carpool every morning together to the ground, so to be out there and put on however many we did, a couple of hundred, and obviously the way he batted yesterday and continued that on today like he did at the Basin last week gave me a lot of inspiration to try and do the same and put us a team in a position where we're now in a chance to win the game with a lot of time left."

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Nicholls batted 225 balls for his score, only twice having faced more balls in his Test career. Latham faced 370 deliveries for his, which takes his series tally to 889 - the third-most balls faced by anyone in a two-Test series.

"You look back at Tommy's 264 in Wellington, and for him to come out yesterday in the second innings and basically hit reset and do all that hard work again is pretty cool." Nicholls said. "He's a very resilient guy and is one of the most hard-working guys I know. To see him have the discipline to do that for another 300 balls in this innings, and to be out there batting with him, was pretty special."

Every New Zealand batsman who came to the crease in the second innings was involved in a 50-plus partnership at the very least, with the lowest individual score being Ross Taylor's 40. Nicholls said the runs that had been scored prior to his arrival made his job that much easier at No. 5.

"Guys at the top like Tom, Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson batted for long periods of time and made their bowlers - especially the seam bowlers - come back for more spells. We saw the fatigue factor with that later on. It was important for me and Tom to keep things really simple and know that when they do come back, you're going to get scoring opportunities."

Immediately before New Zealand's declaration, Nicholls put on an unbroken 124 off 87 balls with Colin de Grandhomme, who hit New Zealand's fastest Test fifty, reaching the milestone off 28 balls.

"The wicket here has a bit more pace than the one at Wellington and allows you to score quicker at times," Nicholls said. "For Colin de Grandhomme to come in and show the class and X-factor he has, to really put that total to a big number was great."