Ambrose Saves England Blushes

Tim Ambrose delivered a defiant innings to rescue England from another top-order collapse and prevent New Zealand taking control of the second Test.

Tim Ambrose delivered a defiant innings to rescue England from another top-order collapse and prevent New Zealand taking control of the second Test.
The 25-year-old Warwickshire wicketkeeper, playing only his second Test, spearheaded England's counter-attack on the opening day at the Basin Reserve with an unbeaten 97 just as the hosts seemed set to take control.
Ambrose hit 15 fours and two sixes in his 160-minute innings and dominated a 155-run partnership with Paul Collingwood which turned the day around after England's misfiring top order once again suffered an afternoon slump.
Desperate to atone for their display in the 189-run opening Test defeat at Hamilton, it took Ambrose's hard-hitting innings to prevent another dismal day at the Basin Reserve as England closed on 291 for five.
Put into bat in conditions favourable to seam bowling, the tourists appeared to have learned their lessons from Hamilton, with captain Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook forging a determined 79-run opening stand.
But having been dismissed for 110 in the last Test and 81 in their previous outing against Sri Lanka at Galle before Christmas, England slumped once again and lost five wickets in 23 overs after lunch.
It plunged them into trouble at 136 for five, but Ambrose showed composure beyond his experience to battle them out of trouble alongside Collingwood.
Fortunate during the early stages of his innings, when several drives flew just over the slip cordon, Ambrose settled down to dominate New Zealand's attack in the final session and brought up the 150-partnership with Collingwood – of which he had contributed 94 – with a commanding pull off seamer Kyle Mills.
Vaughan and Cook had earlier seemed destined for major innings after comfortably dealing with the opening session, but they were rocked by all-rounder Jacob Oram's superb spell either side of lunch.
Oram, who claimed amazing figures of 21-9-27-1 during England's first innings in the previous Test, conceded only two runs from his five overs before lunch and struck just two balls after the interval when he clipped Vaughan's off-stump as he pushed forward defensively.
Cook, who had progressed to within six runs of his first half-century of the series, followed in Oram's next over when he edged behind and gave wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum a regulation catch.
New batsman Andrew Strauss, under increasing pressure to score runs having earned his recall after missing Sri Lanka before Christmas, scored only eight before being deceived by a Kyle Mills' slower ball which he steered to point.
England were fortunate not to lose Ian Bell to Mills' next delivery when he mistimed an attempted pull which should have been caught at fine leg by seamer Mark Gillespie, who misjudged the flight.
Bell was given another reprieve in the next over when he edged Oram behind, but McCullum failed to take the diving catch after jumping in front of the safe hands of first slip Stephen Fleming.
But the batsman's scratchy 52-minute innings, which included 28 successive dot balls, was ended when Chris Martin returned to the attack and induced another tentative push and edge. This time McCullum claimed an outstanding diving catch.
The key wicket, however, was that of Kevin Pietersen, who had battled for an hour and a half for his 34 and looked capable of dragging England out of their latest batting crisis.
But just two overs before tea, seamer Gillespie, brought in to replace off-spinner Jeetan Patel, decided to bowl from wider on the crease and angled the ball through Pietersen's defences to hit his off-stump.
It left England facing another batting humiliation until Ambrose, hit on the helmet during the early stages of his innings by a Gillespie bouncer, began playing his shots.