Cricket: Old soldiers' heroic display in heat of battle

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The Independent Online
WHEN play ended on the fourth day, England needed 38 runs to win with six wickets in hand. In any other context it would have been a doddle. But the new ball was only five overs old and even in their mid 30s, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are a devastating pair of fast bowlers.

Having thrown the second Test away - the West Indies won that match by three wickets - there was a strong sense of foreboding that it might happen all over again. The storm that broke shortly before the umpires were to come out only heightened the apprehension.

Then, 45 minutes after the start, Walsh and Ambrose marked out their runs. In their different ways, they were both magnificent. Walsh had a lovely rhythm as he ran in to bowl and his determination and enthusiasm were extraordinary.

He did not concede a run until his fourth over and the batsmen were scarcely able to leave a ball alone. He walked back slowly to his mark, the gold chain round his neck glinting in the intermittent sunshine, and for eight overs which cost four runs he bowled his heart out. He was desperate to win.

But, even so, one moment of glorious chivalry showed why Walsh is held in such respect. Running in to bowl the first ball after lunch, he stopped in his stride. The non-striker, Dean Headley, was out of his ground backing up. Walsh pointed at the stumps in the time-honoured way to warn Headley not to take an unfair advantage. In the heat of the moment, it would have been easy to have taken the bails off and Headley would have been given out.

Ambrose was more of a primeval force as he raced in at the other end, with bags of ferocity and two gold chains. But he was unsettled by having to bowl at three left-handers and his line erred too much down the leg side. Ambrose's many appeals must have frightened the umpire, although three of them were successful.

Walsh's appeals were rather more histrionic and the look of disbelief on both their faces when the umpires found against them told of their desperation to bowl out England.

It will not be long before these two old soldiers retire, but they were truly heroic yesterday.