December 25, 2015 / 5:27 AM / 2 years ago

Home ground advantage could hand Nicholls NZ debut

(Reuters) - Any nerves that batsman Henry Nicholls may have as he waits to see if he will make his international debut against Sri Lanka should be dispelled by the fact he will be in familiar surroundings.

The 24-year-old Canterbury left-hander is in line to make his international debut at Hagley Oval in either of the first two games of the five match one-day series as the team ponder how to juggle the side without injured all-rounders Corey Anderson, James Neesham and Grant Elliott.

Top batsman Kane Williamson is also a doubt due to a knee injury for the first match on Saturday.

Williamson scored 108 not out to lead New Zealand to a five-wicket victory in the second test in Hamilton earlier this week but was limping badly during his innings with a heavily strapped right knee.

"We're just working through that knee. It's just a little bit niggly so we want to make sure it's a hundred per cent," New Zealand batting coach Craig McMillan told Fairfax Media while adding that test batsman Tom Latham was on standby for the squad.

"We'll see how he feels. We need to get it right, if a little bit of a break will help it that's something we'll consider."

Should Williamson be ruled out, Nicholls could be a ready-made replacement for the number three batsman, having scored heavily at Hagley Oval in domestic cricket.

He has scored 683 runs in eight matches at the picturesque venue in central Christchurch at an average of 52.53 and 212 runs in nine domestic one-day matches at 42.40.

"He's certainly in the mix when you look at our line-up," said McMillan.

"I don't think there's any better place to make your debut than at home. He's played a lot of cricket here. It would probably ease the tension a little bit when you know you're on a ground that you've played well at before.

"His progression over the last 24 months has been excellent, he's matured in a lot of areas in terms of his game.

"His white ball cricket has certainly improved over the last two years.

"(And) it's always been a belter here. The batters should have a smile on their face."

Nicholls' possible debut could also be eased with the fact that fast bowler Lasith Malinga has not arrived in New Zealand.

The 32-year-old Malinga, who is Sri Lanka's Twenty20 captain, has been troubled by a knee injury since October and the team are unsure if he will be fit enough to travel to New Zealand with Thisara Perera joining the team.

"He has not come for the ODIs," team manager Jerry Woutersz told Cricinfo in Christchurch.

"He's feeling some discomfort in his knee. Whether he will come between the ODIs and T20s -- no one knows."

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Napier; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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