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Tim Ambrose is relishing an opportunity to try where countless other wicketkeepers have failed and attempt to match the stunning achievements of Australia's Adam Gilchrist.

Ever since Gilchrist made his entry into international cricket in 1999, every other wicketkeeper in the world has suffered by comparison and their failed efforts to emulate his amazing feats.

England have chopped and changed behind the stumps with great regularity since the retirement of Alec Stewart in 2003 as they attempt to find a player capable of playing match-changing innings like Gilchrist and be competent enough with the gloves to take key catches.

But as Warwickshire wicketkeeper-batsman Ambrose readies himself to become the latest player tried by England in the Gilchrist role, he is excited rather than intimidated by the challenge ahead.

"I don't think he has distorted what people expect but he has raised the bar, which is always a good thing," said Australian-born Ambrose.

"It may be hard to expect other players to perform the same as him, but I don't think it's harsh for players to want and to expect themselves to reach that benchmark.

"Maybe one day someone will do better than that, who knows? He's raised the bar and that's always a good thing in sport."

As Ambrose prepares to start his international career - he is expected to be given the nod as England's wicketkeeper for the Test series in New Zealand while Durham's Phil Mustard takes the gloves for the one-day series - it is perhaps fitting that Gilchrist prepares to end his.

Gilchrist, who has scored over 5570 Test runs and enjoyed a strike rate of 96.90 and 145.29 respectively in one-day and international Twenty20 cricket, will end his illustrious career after the one-day series against India and Sri Lanka.

But Ambrose, for one, will be sad to him go even if it may make his life easier as he attempts to establish himself as England's number one wicketkeeper-batsman.

"I think it's a sad day that he's gone," said Ambrose. "Like everyone else, I've always enjoyed watching him play.

"He's been the benchmark for our particular skill and it's sad that we won't get to see him play any more, but what a privilege to have been able to see him play in the first place."

The ghost of Gilchrist - and particularly his impact on matches - will remain, however, as Ambrose attempts to succeed where Geraint Jones, Chris Read, Paul Nixon and Matt Prior have failed before him - by settling the arguments about who should be England's Test wicketkeeper.

"The chance is there to make it your own," he said.

"You can't rest on your laurels and whoever does take it on is going to have to be on top of their game every day because there are guys behind who want their chance as well.

"It's all about the contribution he can give to the batting line-up, particularly in times when it's needed. The middle order is often relied on during more difficult times in the game and to have the quality to perform when it's a difficult situation is probably what will help the balance of most sides.

"All players have a different way of dealing with it. The number of times we've seen Adam Gilchrist come out at 70 for five and smash a hundred off 70 balls and that's his way of doing it. It's that contribution when it's difficult when the middle order show their worth."

Ambrose has already had a good luck text message from Prior, his former team-mate at Sussex and predecessor as England Test wicketkeeper, as he settles in for his first senior tour.

He is expected to play some part in the two one-day warm-up matches against Canterbury this weekend, the first of which was due to start overnight tonight, and although he remains behind Mustard in the pecking order he will be trying his utmost to force his way into England's thinking for both forms of the game.

"The one-day series is first so I'm focusing my game on that and making sure that if I get a chance I'm ready to play," he added.

"I'd like to think I'm strong in both games. In the modern game you have to be able to play both formats and Twenty20. You have to be flexible and adaptable and that's how I'd like to think of my game."

While England prepare with a fully-fit squad, New Zealand have a doubt over captain Daniel Vettori for Tuesday's Twenty20 opener after he injured his right ankle in training.

Left-arm spinner Vettori, the most economic bowler at last year's ICC World Twenty20 Championships in South Africa, will be assessed when he assembles with the rest of the New Zealand squad in Auckland this weekend.

Off-spinner Jeetan Patel has been added to New Zealand's Twenty20 squad while hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum is on stand-by to lead the side if Vettori fails to recover.
 
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