Ambrose faces up to expectations of country and family
Monday 03 March 2008
On Wednesday Warwickshire's Tim Ambrose will, barring injury, become the fourth wicketkeeper England have used in Tests since Alec Stewart retired in 2003. His parents, Ray and Sally, are flying in to Hamilton to celebrate.
Mr and Mrs Ambrose will not have too far to travel. Like Geraint Jones and Matthew Prior, two of his predecessors, Ambrose was not born in England. The 25-year-old is from Newcastle, Australia, a three-hour flight across the Tasman.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them," said Ambrose, following the team's journey from Dunedin to Hamilton. "It will be good to catch up. My Dad came over in the summer to visit me but I haven't seen my Mum for a couple of years because she's living in Australia so it's quite a trek and my winters have been a bit busy the last few years .
"They are getting in on Tuesday evening and having them there will mean a great deal to me, as will making my debut. I was talking to Stuart Broad the other night and he was telling me about his debut in Colombo. It was sending shivers down my spine the way he was talking about it. He was very proud of the moment and I'm sure I'll feel the same way.
"I don't think anyone really knows how they will react until they actually get there. I haven't felt too many nerves so far so I'm just generally excited and looking forward to hopefully getting a chance."
Ambrose faces an unenviable task. Not only are Test keepers now expected to take every catch that comes their way, they also have to score runs. His performance in Hamilton will be scrutinised as closely as those of Andrew Strauss and Stephen Harmison, who both need strong displays.
Ambrose's glovework was impressive in the three-day game against a New Zealand Select XI in Dunedin and he will have benefited from an hour at the crease on Saturday afternoon. Strauss and Ian Bell enjoyed the final day of England's warm-up game too, scoring centuries.
"[Australia's Adam] Gilchrist has definitely raised the bar," said Ambrose. "I think he's been inspirational for people who try to do the job I try to do. It's great to have someone at that level to aim for and there's no reason why people cannot aim for the same goals and standards he has set in the past.
"I am very pleased with the way I'm catching it and I'm still working towards where I want to be with my batting, but it was good to get 33 in Dunedin, to find out exactly where I am."
Ambrose is a popular man on tour, being the best guitarist in the squad. The current England side contains several budding strummers and on travel days Graeme Swann and James Anderson can be seen carrying their instruments on to the bus. Ambrose is possibly being listened to as closely as Ottis Gibson, the team's bowling coach.
"I wouldn't say I was a serious guitarist although I've been playing for quite a while," said Ambrose. "A few of the other guys are trying to learn on tour so it's been good having some people to play along with. We've played together a few times but we haven't let anyone in to watch us yet. I've never played in a band; it's always been a relaxation thing for me really. It seems to help me to unwind.
"Some of the boys call me Bob Dylan because I'm a big fan of his, I'm a big fan of folk music. But keeping wicket is not great for my playing. I've had to adjust my style slightly because I got a bit of a thumb injury and it didn't quite bend the right way, but I've managed to work around that."
Apparently there is footage of Ambrose playing guitar to be found on YouTube, under a hidden identity. If he becomes the cricketer England want him to be it will not be long before he appears on the website for his endeavours on a cricket field.
New Zealand have included the uncapped all-rounder Grant Elliott in their 13-man squad for the first Test. Elliott played against England in Dunedin, taking 2 for 40 in 21 overs and scoring 28.
New Zealand squad: DL Vettori (capt), MD Bell, GD Elliott, SP Fleming, JM How, CS Martin, BB McCullum, KD Mills, IE O'Brien, JDP Oram, JS Patel, MS Sinclair, LRPL Taylor.
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