Ambrose to England's rescue
Tim Ambrose struck 97 to help England overcome an afternoon collapse to finish day one of the second Test in Wellington on 291-5.
Last Updated: 14/03/08 4:40am
Tim Ambrose and Paul Collingwood combined to rescue England from another batting collapse on day one of the second Test in Wellington.
The pair put on an unbroken stand of 155 to steer the tourists to 291-5 at the close after the Kiwis had threatened to bowl them out cheaply.
Ambrose followed up a half century on debut in Hamilton with a counter-attacking display to finish on 97 not out, leaving him just one shot away from a maiden Test ton.
The wicketkeeper-batsman hit 15 fours and two sixes in his 160-minute innings while Collingwood played his part in the recovery with a gritty 48 not out after England had slipped from a lunchtime score of 79-0 to 156-5 at tea.
England's new-look bowling attack minus the combined tally of 460 Test wickets of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison were forced to wait for their chance after being put into bat by Black Caps skipper Daniel Vettori.
They couldn't have asked for a better start, Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook managing to bat through the opening session with few alarms.
However, whatever the home side had for lunch worked a treat.
It was fourth seamer Jacob Oram, who was the only bowler to pose any real threat in the morning, that started the top-order collapse with the wicket of Vaughan that ended England's serene progress.
A perfect away swinger from the all-rounder bowled a bemused-looking England captain for 32 to the second ball of the afternoon session, the first of five wickets to go down for just 57 runs.
Oram's following over saw Cook go too, edging behind to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum as he attempted to defend a straight ball square of the wicket on the off side.
The Essex left-hander had up until then looked in good touch during his innings of 44, becoming the youngest English batsmen to reach 2,000 Test runs in just his 26th match.
Andrew Strauss' hopes for a big score to cement his spot in the team were dashed quickly when his heavy-footed drive presented a simple catch to Mathew Sinclair at point off the bowling of Kyle Mills.
Ian Bell did littled to calm the nerves by nearly getting himself out to the first ball he faced when he attempted to hook a short delivery from well outside off stump.
The mis-hit held up in the breeze long enough for Mark Gillespie at fine leg but the fielder seemed to misjudge it, eventually barely laying a finger on the ball and allowing the batsmen to pick up a single.
Before he had another run to his name Bell was dropped again, this time McCullum being the guilty party as he could only parry an outside edge into the chest of Stephen Fleming at first slip.
Those two let-offs perhaps suggested lady luck had smiled on the right-hander, two lovely front-foot drives off Chris Martin confirming he was beginning to get into his stride after a very sticky start.
Yet it all proved to be a false dawn, Bell managing to make just 11 before feeling the need to poke at a Martin delivery that presented another catching opportunity to McCullum, who made no mistakes second time around.
Gillespie also made amends for his earlier error in the field by bowling Kevin Pietersen for 32 to round out a stunning afternoon session for the Kiwis.
At the interval they would have had high hopes of beginning their first innings before the end of the day, yet the bowlers appeared to lapse back into the bad habits they had displayed in the opening two hours of play.
An extended final session saw England smash 135 runs, Ambrose overcoming an early blow on the helmet to change the complexion of the contest with a counter-attacking display packed full of thumping drives and powerful cuts.
He tried his best to reach three figures to spare him a nervous night's sleep in the final over of the day bowled by Oram, who finished with remarkable figures of 2-25 from 22 overs.