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March 7, 2008
Bowler of the day
"I don't have too many secrets," claimed Daniel Vettori on the eve of the match, and it's true, he's not a bowler of the mysterious variety, a la Warne, Murali or even Harbhajan. Even so, England struggled to make head or tail of his subtle variations of pace and flight, and he conceded his runs at less than one-and-a-half an over, while ripping out two priceless wickets in Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen. He allowed himself a good look at the track during his second-day 88, and demonstrated a knowhow that none of England's bowlers came close to matching. All in all, he's having a pretty good game.
Crass dismissal of the day
So many to choose from, but Strauss's has to take the biscuit, seeing as it came just three balls after lunch, at a time when he had done the hard graft and could look forward to a lengthy afternoon of accumulation. Strauss was recalled to bolster a batting line-up that mustered a solitary century in their last series in Sri Lanka, but he himself has now failed to reach three figures in 26 attempts. Vettori floated one up into the blockhole, Strauss launched himself into a reckless drive, and the ball dipped, bit and span into the stumps.
False dawn of the day
When Kevin Pietersen launched his third delivery, from Jeetan Patel, straight back over the bowler's head for six, it was easy to assume that the tempo of his innings had been set. Not a bit of it. That shot was entirely out of keeping with what followed. Pietersen didn't reach the boundary again for another 90 deliveries, and only three times in all in a 131-ball stay that was his slowest ever for any score above 30.
Debut of the day
Tim Ambrose has been anonymous in this match so far, which in wicketkeeping terms is a very good thing. He kept flawlessly for 138.3 overs of New Zealand's innings, then finally appeared for his first Test innings with England precariously placed on 245 for 6. By the close he was still sitting pretty on 23 not out, an innings of compact certainty that bodes well for his future. He endured an agonising first 18 deliveries, as Patel and Vettori denied him that cathartic maiden run, but in the end he tucked Vettori off his hips for one, then celebrated with boundaries from each of his next two deliveries.
Scoreline of the day
England reached the close on 286 for 6, which was almost identical to New Zealand's first-day 282 for 6. Paul Collingwood will have to convert his overnight 41 into a rare England century, and Ambrose will have to emulate New Zealand's No. 8, Daniel Vettori, if they intend reaching parity before the second innings gets underway. Because the men to come, with all due respect to the obdurate Ryan Sidebottom, are not in the class of New Zealand's lower order.
Hymn of the day
The Barmy Army were pretty subdued for most of England's travails, but they had clearly put their down time to good use when they finally burst into voice after tea. "Ambrose. We've got Tim Ambrose," they declared. "Just like Ambrosia. They made good custard. When we were kids."
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