Warwickshire's Tim Ambrose has been given the opportunity to establish himself as England’s wicketkeeper in all formats of the game after a surprise call-up for the one-day series against New Zealand.
The 25-year-old was the only uncapped player named in a 14-man squad, which will compete in a Twenty20 international and five one-day internationals against the tourists starting in a fortnight.
Ousted is Durham’s Phil Mustard, who averaged only 22.8 in 10 one-day internationals during the winter, while also overlooked is Matthew Prior who is the leading run-scorer in Championship cricket with 473 runs at an average of 67.
Ambrose, who replaced Prior in the Test team, is expected to bat in the middle order with Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright being identified as Mustard’s replacement as a hard-hitting opener alongside the more considered style of Alastair Cook as opening batsman.
Ambrose said: “My goal at the start of the summer was to play in both formats so this is a good opportunity to establish myself. I’ve been playing for the last three or four seasons in the middle order and have been trying to learn how to play that style of the game.
“I enjoy batting in that area of the innings. I think it’s the toughest role to play in one-day cricket and it’s a great challenge but if it comes off towards the end of the innings whether you’re setting or chasing it’s a great feeling.
“I’ve worked very hard on that for the last few years and I got to the point last season where I really felt it was coming on well in that aspect.”
Ambrose’s selection signals England’s determination not to have separate wicketkeepers for the Test and one-day sides and he will take his place in a batting line-up designed to be more explosive than during the 3-1 defeat in New Zealand.
National Selector Geoff Miller said: “Tim has already shown that he has the temperament and the ability required to succeed in Test cricket and his selection reflects our desire to use the same wicketkeeper in both the long and short forms of the game.
“Phil Mustard will, of course, be disappointed not to have been selected on this occasion but he remains a player of terrific potential and we will continue to monitor his performances closely along with a number of other wicketkeepers in domestic cricket.”
Prior worked hard throughout the winter on his wicketkeeping and his batting after being dropped after the Test series defeat in Sri Lanka before Christmas. But, for the time being at least, England will persevere with Ambrose despite scoring only three runs in his two innings against New Zealand in this season’s Tests.
He said: “It’s a bit difficult to tell how I’m batting at the moment because I’ve only had a couple of knocks in the last few weeks. I think I’ve had only four proper, long knocks all season in the longer format so it’s difficult to know where you are. I think I’m hitting the ball pretty well at the moment and it’s just a question of getting in and spending a little bit of time at the crease and let my game come out.”
The top order is set for a major reshuffle with Wright chosen to open the innings despite failing to score in his only previous one-day international in that position. But his attacking strokeplay down the order has convinced England that he is worth another look as an opener.
Miller said: “Luke Wright is a very exciting cricketer and we’re going to start with him.”
England plan to talk to Kevin Pietersen about his moving up the batting order to number three to take advantage of fielding restrictions should they lose an early wicket.