Smiling Ambrose dashes Durham chances
Durham 284 and 11 for 1 require another 402 runs to beat Warwickshire 345 and 351 for 8 dec (Ambrose 105, Clarke 92)
Tim Ambrose said he was "enjoying cricket and enjoying life" after making a first century since opening up about his battle with depression. His dashing 105 gave Warwickshire a big lead and a chance to push for victory on the final day.
Last September was the first time that Ambrose had revealed the troubles that saw him miss almost half the 2010 season. But now almost entirely free from the "soaking wet duvet" that had covered him, he is in a good place and part of a lower-order that makes Warwickshire extremely hard to kill off.
Ambrose was needed to claw his side back from 64 for 4 as Warwickshire's top-order again showed its fragile nature. They lost a fifth wicket with the lead at 225 but Ambrose and Rikki Clarke shared a century stand in 138 balls that whipped away the opportunity Durham sensed after their morning's work.
For Ambrose, it was a century dedicated to his grandfather Nick who underwent a recent heart operation. The news was positive and Ambrose will Skype him with his own good news.
"I'm enjoying cricket and enjoying life and that's the important thing for everyone," Ambrose said. "I felt good all pre-season. As soon as I picked a bat up in late February I've felt in great nick. I said to the guys on the first morning of this game, is it wrong that I want someone to get out so I can have a bat? I haven't had a hit, in Abu Dhabi the guys piled on the runs and against Derby the rain got in the way so now that I've had the chance, it's nice to convert it."
Ambrose was usurped by Matt Prior at both Sussex and in the England Test side and it was his exclusion from the England team in 2009 that triggered his lowest ebb. He played 11 Tests and made a century against New Zealand, averaging just under 30. His last match came when Prior flew home from the West Indies when his wife was pregnant, cementing Ambrose's place as Prior's perennial understudy.
International cricket is now as much of an issue to deal with as his depression and he can focus on delivering another title for his county. His runs last year, 623 at 44.50, were part of a lower order that was essential to their success.
"We've talked among ourselves about the engine room," Ambrose said. "With myself, Rikki, Chris Woakes and Keith Barker, there are a lot of runs there and it's something we're very proud of. When we get into trouble we've got the guys to get out of it."
Ambrose and Troughton ensured disaster was averted but Ben Stokes produced a quick, reverse-swinging spell from the Pavilion End that reignited Durham's hopes. Stokes found an edge from Ambrose that narrowly evaded first slip and trapped Troughton lbw. But Clarke survived the burst and struck two fours in three balls to see Stokes off and end Durham's best hope of a target within range.
It was disappointment for the Durham head coach, Geoff Cook, who chose to praise Warwickshire's lower order rather than his bowlers who had put the match on an even keel at 64 for 4. Ian Westwood and Will Porterfield fell to good deliveries that swung just enough before Varun Chopra was strangled down the leg side from Stokes' first delivery. And when Laurie Evans pulled to mid-off the engine room was being revved up for duty.
They delivered. Warwickshire reached a safe position through Ambrose and Clarke but, given the way runs have been accumulated with ease and at pace on all three afternoons of the match when the ball has softened, Troughton was very cautious in his declaration and ensured that Durham would have to score at over four-an-over to chase 413.
They pulled out with five overs remaining in the day and with the seventh ball of the innings, Chris Wright found a little movement back into Keaton Jennings to trap him for a golden duck.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo