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Who next if not Raval? A look at the Black Caps' opening contenders

After another failure with the bat coming in the second innings against England in Hamilton, Jeet Raval's status as Black Caps' Test opener appears to be on very thin ice.

Jeet Raval Source: Photosport

Raval's dismissal in the second innings at Seddon Park was a sight no Kiwi cricket fan would want to see. The left hander given out LBW for a second-ball duck, despite an obvious inside edge onto his own pad against Sam Curran.

What's more, with the Test tour of Australia creeping closer by the day, the Black Caps simply cannot head across the Tasman with uncertainty in their top order.

In saying that, worryingly for New Zealand selectors and fans alike, there is no one standout candidate to take Raval's spot. 

Here is a potential shortlist of players that could be thrust in to face the Australian new ball attack, starting in Perth next week.

BJ Watling (Black Caps, Northern Districts)

BJ Watling bats against England Source: Photosport

Starting his Test career as an opening batsman, Watling has been one of the success stories of red-ball cricket in this country since taking the gloves. 

His temperament and composure at the crease have all the makings of an opening batsman, while his 205 in Mount Maunganui proved that Watling also has the ability and the appetite for big scores in a back-to-the-wall scenario.

Watling's ascension would also make room for backup keeper Tom Blundell to come into the side, hoping to add to his two Test caps after an impressive 107 not out on debut two years ago.

There's a saying in sport that you should never weaken a strength to strengthen a weakness, but BJ Watling could be the most ready-made option to step in and replace Raval.

Hamish Rutherford (Otago)

Hamish Rutherford in action for the Black Caps. Source: Photosport

Make no mistake, while Hamish Rutherford's time at the top of the Black Caps' batting order wasn't an overwhelming success, the left-hander has by far put the work in for another chance.

After stroking a fluent 171 on Test debut in Dunedin, Rutherford struggled for consistency as an international cricketer afterwards, only scoring a further 584 runs from his next 28 innings, including one half century.

Since he last played a Test in 2015, Rutherford has certainly improved as a red-ball player. Stints in English County Cricket with Essex and Worcestershire (where he's signed on for the 2020 season) have hardened Rutherford as a batsman.

However, a top score of 59 in first-class cricket this season would suggest that Rutherford wouldn't be returning to the side in form.

Glenn Phillips (Auckland)

Auckland Aces batsman Glenn Phillips Source: Photosport

Make no mistake, Glenn Phillips will be a Black Caps regular across all three formats at some point in the future. Being utilised as a makeshift Test opener could be the chance he needs to get his foot in the door.

At 22, Phillips is easily the youngest on this list, and already has 11 T20 Internationals under his belt. Primarily a middle-order player in the longest format, a possible stint as opener would see Phillips playing in a role unfamiliar to him.

However, the reward more than outweighs the risks of throwing Phillips in the deep end, the same way the likes of Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Tim Southee have all been before him.

Despite some modest returns from his young international career, Phillips recently notched an impressive 116 for New Zealand A in their recent warm-up match against England, coming against a bowling attack containing the likes of Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.

Averaging just under 43 from his 23 first-class matches, Phillips is already beginning to show that he's got what it takes to play with the big boys, now it's just a case of when - not if - he's given the chance at Test level.

Tim Seifert (Northern Districts)

Tim Seifert. Source: Photosport

If the selectors were to pick a replacement solely on stats, then they'd struggle to go past Seifert as an opening batsman. The wicketkeeper-batsman scored 119 in his one innings opening the batting for Northern Districts this season.

Now established as New Zealand's go-to wicketkeeper in T20s, Seifert is starting to find his footing as a batsman in his own right. His aggressive nature at the top of the order in white ball cricket has earned obvious comparisons to Brendon McCullum, while his hockey background as a youth also brings shades of a young Ross Taylor.

The ability is all there for Seifert, the only possible hindrance would seem to be the selectors' view of his status as a white ball specialist at international level, having played just one first-class match since the start of November.

Henry Nicholls (Black Caps, Canterbury)

A completely left-field option, the Black Caps could turn to one-day opener Henry Nicholls to solve their top order woes.

Henry Nicholls batting in action for the Black Caps against England in first day-night Test at Eden Park in Auckland. Source: Photosport

He is now established as one of world cricket's more reliable Test batsmen, currently sixth on the ICC's rankings.

Not as fancied as the likes of a Kane Williamson or Ross Taylor, Nicholls has in the past two years proven that he belongs in this Test side.

A move from five up to opener isn't completely unfeazable for Nicholls, with Brendon McCullum having done so on more than one occasion.

What's more, Nicholls was entrusted with opening alongside Martin Guptill during the Black Caps' World Cup campaign.

The only issue would be unsettling one of the more stable middle orders New Zealand have ever had, with Nicholls' proposed move to open creating another hole down at number five.

True, it could mean a middle order spot for the likes of Phillips or Seifert, but why would you want to move a world-class performer in Henry Nicholls?