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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 05:01 GMT
Ambrose stars as England hit back
Second Test, Wellington, day one (close):
England 291-5 v New Zealand

By Paresh Soni

Tim Ambrose
Ambrose recovered from an uncertain start to play brilliantly
Tim Ambrose hit a superb unbeaten 97 as England recovered from a top-order collapse to post 291-5 on day one of the second Test against New Zealand.

Jacob Oram removed Alastair Cook (44) and Michael Vaughan (32), who had put on 79, to spark a slump after lunch.

When Kevin Pietersen (31) was fifth out on 136 it looked grim for the tourists, who are 1-0 down, but Ambrose hit his second fifty in as many Tests.

The wicket-keeper dominated an unbroken stand of 155 with Paul Collingwood.

Until then it had been a tale of how the top five - who misfired in the crushing Hamilton defeat - failed to cope with movement off the seam and through the air.

Initially, after Vaughan again called incorrectly at the toss and was put in to bat by Daniel Vettori, he and Cook survived several tricky moments to establish a solid platform.

Both seized on errors in line and length to launch some crisp drives and pulls as Cook beat David Gower's record for the youngest Englishman to reach 2,000 Test runs, doing so at the age of 23 years and 79 days.


But after going through the first session unscathed, England lost 5-57 in the afternoon, with Oram the instigator.

His introduction shortly before lunch made life more uncomfortable and he had his reward for a miserly spell when his second ball after the break straightened and knocked back Vaughan's off-stump.

Cook edged one that shaped away to leave the big all-rounder with figures of 2-2 in seven overs.

England then imploded in the face of tight bowling which was by no means unplayable as Andrew Strauss chipped a slower Kyle Mills ball straight to cover and Ian Bell was dropped by Brendon McCullum before the keeper held on to a diving catch.

Pietersen, who was subdued in the first Test, was again far from fluent, although he drove Mills through the covers and pulled Mark Gillespie majestically.

The latter had his man with a delivery which came back in and clattered into the off-stump after Pietersen played all around it.

Just as they had in the morning, the New Zealand seamers then inexplicably lost sight of what had been working and launched a succession of deliveries wide enough outside off-stump for Ambrose to feast on.

Jacob Oram
Oram's miserly spell sparked a collapse from the England top order

The keeper/batsman did take several blows on his helmet and body during an erratic opening in which he swished airily as many times as he made clean contact.

But when ball met bat, it flew away in a hurry as three off-side boundaries in the final over before tea from Gillespie and a top-edged hook off Chris Martin for six after the break testified.

Even skipper Vettori could do little to stem the flow of runs as England finally threw off the shackles in this series and scored at a rate in excess of three an over.

The previously unbreakable Oram was driven through mid-off and cut for the first boundaries off his bowling as Ambrose reached 50 in 68 balls.

He then cut Vettori twice for four and clipped Gillespie through mid-wicket to bring up the century partnership in 157 balls.

The freedom of his strokeplay inspired Collingwood to move out of his cocoon of safety and he ended the day 48 not out.

The dogged Durham number six drove Gillespie through extra-cover and Martin backward of point as England eased past 250.

By the end Ambrose was looking every inch the assured number seven England have been desperate for.

A rasping cover drive, straight drive and cut off Martin provided a neat synopsis of the fightback and when he pulled Mills for his second six in the penultimate over a maiden century seemed likely before stumps.

Oram prevented it with a terrific final over but he could not stop the second half of the day belonging to the Warwickshire man.

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