The Grim Reaper: Curtly AmbroseGaneshbabu Venkat |
With the trademark white wristbands,the mini-rattle of his palms before delivery and his unique clapping and appealing followed by the vigorous hand-jiving celebration,Curtly Ambrose was indeed a sight to watch and left cricket lovers all around the world spell bound with some of his spells from hell. CW’s Ganesh Venkat captures five of his “in the zone” performances aka demolition jobs in Test matches.
Fourth Test – Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
The first instance happened against England during the 1990 Test series, England were hanging on to their precious 1-0 lead in the series.After both teams put up high first innings totals and when West Indies took most of the fourth day to extend their lead the match was headed for a draw, however Ambrose woke that game up from the slumber with his new ball burst that left the English gasping.Three English wickets had fallen by close of play for just 15 runs.
Left with a day to survive, England ran in to a raging Ambrose who for the first time showed the world the havoc he could cause. After the rest day he came back and blew England away for 191, the last five wickets falling for a meager 25 runs. He finished with innings figures of 8/45 and match figures of 10/127. This was his first ten wicket haul in Test matches.
South Africa 1991-92
Only Test – Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
What should have been an historic occasion turned out to be a damp affair from a public perspective when the Bajans decided to boycott South Africa’s return to Tests after 22 years with the infamous “No Cummins, No goings” message, when Anderson Cummins was not selected for the game.
South Africa dominated the Test for 80% of the time only to be denied at the last hurdle. South Africa managed an 83 run lead and West Indies were dismissed for 283 in their second innings it seemed like the Proteas were going to create a history of sorts by breaching the fortress of Kensington Oval where West Indies had not been defeated for decades.
Chasing 201 for victory they finished the fourth day at 122/2 and victory just seemed a mere formality. On the fifth day though Ambrose and Courtney Walsh had other ideas, they were virtually unplayable and South Africa had no answer to this experienced duo. When Keppler Wessels was snapped up by Brian Lara of Walsh in the slips, the flood gates were opened and Ambrose shredded the inexperienced South African batting line up to pieces.
Hanise Cronje and Dave Richardson edged to the keeper, Meryck Pringle and Allan Donald had their stumps disturbed and the South Africans were simply shell-shocked and imploded to 148 all out losing eight wickets for 26 runs in less than two hours.West Indies had conjured up a miraculous win thanks to Ambrose. Ambrose finished with miserly figures of 6/34 from his 24 overs and ended up with match figures of 8/81.
Fifth Test- WACA, Perth, Australia
This should arguably be his best ever performance in Tests. The devastation was on a bouncy WACA strip home away from home. Having won by the skin of their teeth at Adelaide by just one run, Ambrose had his tail up and It was unbelievable bowling on the first day of the Test. The Aussie batsmen could not lay bat on ball leave alone scoring. In a short-spell of 32 balls that defied limits Ambrose took seven wickets, conceding a solitary run. Six of the victims were caught either by the wicket-keeper or in the slip cordon. Among them Allan Border first ball and David Boon, the top scorer for Australia.
The wicket was not a mine field and these were class batsmen to boot. It was an incredible spell and there has never been an instance of a bowler causing so much carnage as he did on that day at Perth. Australia had no answer to Ambrose in the first Innings and they could not negate Ian Bishop in the second when they followed-on. Ambrose chipped in with a couple of wickets in the second dig as well. However the match was as good as over with Ambrose’s 7/25 on the first day. He returned match figures of 9/79 for the match.
Third Test – Queen’s Park Oval, Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad
The Englishmen were yet again on the receiving end, when he ambushed them at Queen’s Park Oval.Trailing 0-2 in the series England finally seemed to be playing with a sense of purpose and authority when they eked out a valuable 75 run lead.West Indies failed with the bat again in the second innings setting a target of 194 to win the match. In came Ambrose and cut through the English batting like knife through butter. This one has a special place in my heart for this was the first time I saw a ball by ball bowling spell from Ambrose live on television in a Test match.
Mike Atherton was removed first ball, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Robin Smith had their stumps flying. Graeme Hick edged behind and Jack Russell was caught fending in the slips. It was pistol precise accurate bowling and Ambrose resembled the devil himself with his wild celebrations. Queen’s Park Oval erupted to every blow and the noise levels inside the stadium would have been heard all over the city. It was a surreal atmosphere with the grim reaper in full flow.
In the ensuing mayhem England were decimated and ended the fourth day at 40/8, the final rites were completed when they were eventually dismissed for 46 in less than 20 overs. Legend has it that Ambrose promised his captain Richardson that they are to not lose this Test match.
Zimbabwe – Port-of-Spain, 2000-01
First Test – Queen’s Park Oval, Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad
West Indies were on the wane and Zimbabwe were a more than decent side when they toured the Caribbean for the first time. West Indies failed to reach 200 in either innings and Zimbabwe, thanks to their captain Andy flower secured a lead and somehow found themselves needing just 99 runs to win their first Test against the West Indies.
But they were meted out the same treatment their neighbors South Africa endured nine years ago, albeit at the hands Franklyn Rose. This was not an all in all Ambrose demolition job, however Ambrose was instrumental in keeping Zimbabwe to a minimum score in the first innings and in the true sense of the word grim reaper, he obliterated the tail. Ambrose bowled an incredible spell of sustained fast bowling and his figures read 11-6-8-3.