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March 14, 2008
James Anderson was a left-field selection for this match. Everyone predicted that Stuart Broad would replace Steve Harmison, but no-one truly imagined that Matthew Hoggard would also be sent to the dog-house. Even so, Anderson was the "captain" of England's bowling during their summer series against India, and their Man of the Series to boot, with 14 wickets and a five-for at Lord's. As far as Peter Moores is concerned, his time is now. Doubtless it helped that Anderson spent four days up at Auckland last week, finding his match fitness with 38 arduous overs in an innings defeat. The benefits of that work-out were fully apparent in a spectacular day's work, much to New Zealand's chagrin.
Delivery of the day
Anderson is not a like-for-like replacement for Hoggard. On the credit side he is quicker, on the debit side he is more erratic, but when he's on song, he is capable of bowling balls that no cricketer in the world can keep out. Matthew Bell discovered that in Anderson's first over of the morning, when he was turned inside-out by a beauty that swung in at pace, pitched and seamed past the edge to clip the outside of his off stump. There's no answer for that in the coaching manual. It makes you wonder why he insisted on banging it halfway down the track all through the one-dayers.
Edge of the day
There were a few flying around today - five catches in the cordon and two drops as well - but as far as Tim Ambrose is concerned, there's only one that counts, and that was the one that flew off his splice through the vacant third slip and away to the boundary to bring up his maiden Test century. Rooted on 97 overnight, he had had to endure two of the finest maiden overs that Jacob Oram can ever have bowled - one to end last night's play and the other to resume the ordeal this morning, and Oram thought he had his man when he jagged a lifter off the seam and past Ross Taylor's outstretched hand. But Ambrose was not to be denied, as he became the first English wicketkeeper to score an overseas century since Alec Stewart at Auckland 11 years ago.
Take of the day
Ambrose's hundred was an innings of remarkable confidence and aggression, but then so were those of Matt Prior and Geraint Jones before him. The real reason for excitement about England's latest wicketkeeper is that his glovework appears, at this early stage of his career, to be second-to-none. He was blemish-free on debut in Hamilton, and so far in this innings has taken every chance that has flown his way. The most impressive effort, however, came off a Stuart Broad short ball that climbed violently past Taylor's nose. Ambrose - all five foot six of him - timed his leap to perfection, hung for an eternity, and plucked the ball in a single outstretched glove.
Fielder of the day
Monty Panesar has improved his fielding no end from the Bambi-legged bundle of nerves who first took the field at Nagpur two years ago. But he's still prone to the occasional moment when he'd prefer the ground to swallow him up. Such as the moment in the 28th over when Taylor drove speculatively towards him at mid-off, only for the ball to bounce straight through Monty's legs and away to the boundary. Or the moment in the 34th over when Stephen Fleming hurtled for a suicidal single and Monty fumbled the (admittedly poor) throw from Kevin Pietersen. Or the moment in the 53rd over when Daniel Vettori clipped Collingwood to fine leg where Monty, yep, let it through his legs. Two balls later, at the start of the new over, Collingwood struck to remove the tailender, Mark Gillespie, so perhaps we'll let him pretend that last one was a plan.
Rearguard of the day
Daniel Vettori is better than a mere No. 8 batsman these days. Much better. In fact, since New Zealand's tour of Australia in November 2004, he has averaged 46.18 in 22 Tests, which is nearly 20 runs better than his career mark of 27.65. He made a critical 88 in Hamilton, but his unbeaten 50 in this innings was arguably even better, seeing as he lost Brendon McCullum early and had to marshall the tail as well as give the ball some humpty. No shot was better than the extraordinary flick for six that brought up his half-century. He simply leant back and dabbed the ball up and over the slips, and the pace and bounce of Broad did the hard work for him.
Disappointment of the day
The Wellington crowd is probably 80% English, but there are still enough Kiwis around who realise that Fleming has never yet scored a Test century on his home ground, and that - with his retirement looming - this is his last chance to correct that statistical anomaly. Today's innings, sadly, was a struggle. He needed a bagful of luck to get as far as he did, as he inside-edged over his middle stump and earned a reprieve from Collingwood at slip. But just when it seemed he'd got over the worst, he produced the worst shot of the lot, a limp waft outside off - half cut, half leave - that looped ever so gently to Pietersen at point. Fleming did at least pass 7000 runs in his innings. His next target is 7160, which will guarantee him a career average of 40. He currently has 7016 ...
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