Cricket: Ambrose's artistry frustrates

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The Independent Online
Northamptonshire 238 and 166-2

Surrey 189

GRITTY, hard-fought days do not come much tougher than this. Almost every run had to be chiselled out of a pitch on which no batsman is ever likely to feel established, and in a game likely to be settled by fast bowling Curtly Ambrose was yesterday ahead of Waqar Younis on points.

Remarkably, Ambrose picked up only three wickets from a wonderful exhibition of the fast bowler's art during which he regularly turned batsmen round and either found or narrowly missed the outside edge.

From his vast height the variations in bounce were steeper than hitherto. Hands were wrung as the ball regularly hit the glove or the splice and after he had bowled David Ward some of the later batsmen were simply not good enough to get a touch.

Amid all that Mark Butcher stood firm for nearly three hours. Clearly he has inherited some of his father's

expertise against fast bowling, and his left-handedness was no doubt an asset in coping with Ambrose.

He had one moment of good fortune when he almost played on to Kevin Curran at 20. Otherwise he worked out what was possible on this pitch and given sensible support he might well have turned Surrey's first innings deficit into a small lead.

He must have winced at some of the events at the other end once Andrew Smith had ended his own sensible innings by missing a ball of full length from the leg spinner, Andy Roberts, and receiving a leg before decision.

The spinners should not really have had a look-in in these conditions, but not much happened for the other quick bowlers when Ambrose was absent so Allan Lamb sensibly juggled his attack to try all his options.

Thus Graham Kersey swept Rob Bailey into deep square-leg's hands and Waqar, seizing on what he probably thought was a half-volley from Paul Taylor, thrashed it fiercely to mid-off where Curran made the chance look more straightforward than it probably was.

Possibly Waqar would rather have been bowling. After all, if Ambrose could do all that with an old ball, what might he achieve with the new? The answer, which might not come as a total surprise, was not a lot and it took a most uncharacteristic stroke by Nigel Felton to give Surrey their first breakthrough.