Three days in a row Henry Nicholls padded up and resumed his innings at Eden Park. Then on the fourth afternoon in the late summer sunshine - a welcome sight after two days of rain - he jogged off, acknowledging the crowd's applause with a first-class career-best 145 to his name.

Questions can be asked about the depth of New Zealand's batting resources when Martin Guptill is the man called into the Test despite playing one first-class match since November 2016. New Zealand's domestic run chart is headed by a 38-year old (Michael Papps) a 33-year old (Greg Hay), a 36-year old (Luke Woodcock) and a 33-year old whose international days are done (Jesse Ryder). Will Young (600 runs), who is next on the list, has potential at 25 years old while Tim Seifert (555) has been capped in T20Is, but there is not an overflow of options.

So when a name comes through and gives Test cricket a decent stab, it's worth noting. Nicholls has done that, after an up and down start, putting together a run that suggests he could be a long-term presence in the middle order. He had big boots to fill with the No. 5 spot previously occupied by Brendon McCullum. It was in McCullum's final series, against Australia in 2016, that Nicholls made his debut and scored a half-century in his second knock, but after his first nine Tests he was averaging 24.23 and had not found a permanent position in the order. Questions were being asked.

So far, he has answered them after finding a regular spot in McCullum's old home; it's fair to say they are players with contrasting methods. Since the series against Bangladesh last January, he has averaged 58.00 with two centuries. That is among the highest averages for a No. 5 in that period and his record in the position stands up to scrutiny against any New Zealander who has done it in more than 10 Tests.

"I don't think I've done anything differently, I just keep trying to get better and keep learning at Test level," he said. "I personally find it the biggest test of the three formats in international cricket. It's exciting and I enjoy the challenge."

At the beginning of the run, he fell agonisingly short of a maiden century when he chopped into his stumps against Bangladesh in Christchurch but two matches later was able to celebrate with a superb hundred against a South Africa attack featuring Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj in Wellington.

This century began in the shadow of a masterclass from Kane Williamson and though New Zealand were already well ahead when Williamson departed (what felt like ages ago on the second day), Nicholls ensured England's agony would not be ended until New Zealand's choosing. Nicholls will start Test innings in more-pressurised scenarios than 123 for 3 in reply to 58, but his application was a lesson to the England top order. He wore the bowlers down and benefitted.

He cut and pulled strongly, 88 of his runs coming square on both sides of the pitch, but there were also some handsome drives - particularly on the fourth day - as he became freer in his strokeplay with such a dominant position to play from. His half-century had come from 149 balls, his hundred arrived from 228 when he cut Moeen Ali past point having lofted him inches short of six two balls previously.

As the declaration approached, he even brought out the lap-sweep against Chris Woakes. When he jogged off, he had nudged into the top ten scores by a New Zealand No. 5.

New Zealand have a small pool of cricketers to pick from, so players such as Nicholls may be afforded a longer run to find their feet than if there was more pressure from outside. Still, the rewards of showing a bit of faith can pay off. You don't build a home record as solid as New Zealand's on two batsmen alone. There is more to this batting line-up than Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo