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March 13, 2008
When Daniel Vettori won the toss and chose to bowl first, opinion was divided as to the wisdom of his decision. Michael Vaughan claimed he would have done likewise, but by the time he and Alastair Cook had taken England to 79 for 0 at lunch, it's fair to say he was revising his opinion. And then, out of the blue, but in that manner so familiar to England this series, their momentum shuddered to a halt. A hint of a cloud rolled across the Basin, and New Zealand's seamers made the ball talk to the tune of five wickets in the session. And Vettori, quietly content by this stage, was happy to leave himself out of the attack until the 65th over.
Innings of the day
Without Ambrose's initiative, England would have been deep - and possibly terminally - in the mire. They were in tatters at 136 for 5 when he came to the crease, and any more of that negative Hamilton mentality would have been an invitation for further disaster. Instead he fronted up with the fearlessness that had eluded his senior colleagues, never better exemplified than by the sizzling pull for six off Kyle Mills that carried him into the nineties.
Over of the day
There had been just ten balls of the day remaining when he played that shot, and most players in sight of a maiden hundred would have shut up shop for the night. Not a bit of it. A pull for three carried Ambrose to within a single blow, and he was desperate to go for it as well. Jacob Oram, more of whom later, was having none of it, however. Five jagging deliveries in a row kept the batsmen, fielders and spectators on tenterhooks right up to the bitter end, but Ambrose survived to carry his fight to another day
Double act of the day 1
Ambrose's effort was magnificent, but it couldn't have been achieved without the steadfast Paul Collingwood playing a vital anchor role. His doughtiness had been to England's detriment at Hamilton, but this time he enabled his junior partner to carry the attack straight back to New Zealand. The pair performed a similar role in the first innings at Hamilton, where they added 90 for the sixth wicket, but without anything approaching the same intent. This time they brought up their 150 partnership from just 229 balls, at almost exactly twice the scoring rate.
Miser of the day
England's funereal run-rate at Hamilton was the root cause of all their problems, and no-one contributed more stingily to New Zealand's cause than Oram, whose 25 overs cost a meagre 29 runs. Today, it was Oram who once again instigated the slide, in an incredible 14-over onslaught either side of lunch. By the time he took a blow with England reeling at 109 for 3, his cumulative series stats were an incredible 39-18-37-4.
Shots of the day
Oram positively leaked runs in his second spell, however - 13 of them in six overs, including the first boundary he'd conceded all day (and only his second of the entire series). And it was a superb strike too, a full stride to the pitch of the ball from Tim Ambrose, and a sweet drive through the line. One over later, and Ambrose was on the attack again, using his diminutive stature to carve a short ball from Oram up and over the slip cordon and away to the third-man rope. It was a perfectly safe shot, perfectly executed, and it took him to an invaluable half-century from a counterattacking 68 balls.
Diminishing return of the day
On the eve of the series, Daniel Vettori made a great song and dance about the fact that all of England's top six averaged in excess of 40. That, however, is no longer the case. After falling for 8 during England's post-lunch collapse, Andrew Strauss's average has now dipped to 39.95, the lowest mark of his 45-Test career. And all the while, he's extended that search for an 11th Test century to 28 innings and counting ...
Double act of the day 2
What must Matthew Hoggard and Jeetan Patel have been thinking as they lugged the drinks out to their respective players at each and every interval? Only last week, both men were integral members of their teams, Hoggard the senior seamer and Patel the invaluable second spinner. Now they've both been cast out of the reckoning, although they bore the indignity with great resilience as they laughed and joked their way to the middle and back. Being dumped for no good reason is a great ice-breaker between rival 12th men.
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