Ambrose gets even with the odds again

Third Test: Evergreen West Indian paceman secures four-wicket haul as he arrows in on the 400 mark
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The Independent Online

Curtly Ambrose, the finest fast bowler of his generation, says he is not enjoying Test cricket as much as he used to. We spectators, on the other hand, are enjoying him as much as always. At the end of an over, when he placed his maroon cap on his mop of hair and walked back towards third man at the Warwick Road end, the crowd applauded him. This is the purest and best form of admiration, because it rises above partisanship.

Curtly Ambrose, the finest fast bowler of his generation, says he is not enjoying Test cricket as much as he used to. We spectators, on the other hand, are enjoying him as much as always. At the end of an over, when he placed his maroon cap on his mop of hair and walked back towards third man at the Warwick Road end, the crowd applauded him. This is the purest and best form of admiration, because it rises above partisanship.

With his last hurrah at The Oval only a month away, Curtly does not deny he still gets a buzz from taking wickets. So we know he would have been enjoying himself yesterday when he took four of the seven England wickets. That took his Test total to 398, which means he should be comfortably beyond the 400 mark when he retires after 12 years at the job.

You could understand why Ambrose had not enjoyed Lord's, where he toiled in the vineyard for no reward. At the end of that spell he raised his arms skywards, as if to question whether there was, after all, anyone there. At Edgbaston, his partner and friend Courtney Walsh had overshadowed him, and when England batted at Old Trafford, Walsh was back in the wickets.

At the start yesterday, Ambrose's figures were 13.4-40-0, but they hid a spell of five overs for 29 runs. The wise-acres were already wondering if the month-long lay-off in Antigua had left his weapon blunted. But Ambrose is no quitter. His first ball of the day was, indeed, wide. The second was less so, but wide enough to tempt Alec Stewart to flash his bat at it, as if the brilliance of his 105 had left him immune to the consequences of reckless strokeplay. Exit Stewart, to a standing ovation, surely the earliest in a day's Test cricket.

That was the key wicket. England had hoped to get through the first 10 overs without losing one; but "Amby came back", said Duncan Fletcher.

Sherwin Campbell, the West Indian vice-captain, said Ambrose was not bowling any differently: "Today things just went his way." Only seven runs were scored off five overs in Ambrose's first spell of the day - an exhibition of his chief virtue, which is to ignore the fireworks and concentrate on line and length. His former colleague Ian Bishop, no mean fast bowler himself, says: "He is the most patient fast bowler I've known. If things aren't working he won't pitch it up. He won't bowl a yorker. He'll just keep plugging away."

Besides line and length, he gets bounce because of his height - 6ft 7in. Pace is less significant. He bowls much slower than Craig White, for example: his most effective deliveries will not go much above 84mph. Most are around the 80mph mark.

He came back to take the new ball against Michael Vaughan and Dominic Cork, who, after 30 minutes of unflinching vigilance, were getting cocky. The West Indian ground-fielding was, frankly, awful. Ambrose would place his hands on his knees and lean over sadly as ones were turned into twos, and, on one unforgettable occasion, a three. These are not his standards.

Ambrose is 36, and he radiates experience. He wears a gold band round his wrist and two sweatbands on his forearms. He is an angular figure, and his legs are a lot longer than a showgirl's, but there is rhythm in his run-up, and the ball to Cork was of a fine length, directed just outside the off stump. Cork swung his bat so that the fine edge of it met the trajectory of the ball.

Robert Croft and Vaughan delayed the proceedings again. True, Ambrose had Vaughan lbw, and looked incredulously at the umpire, who was signalling a no-ball instead of a dismissal. A misfire is a rare occurrence, but soon after Vaughan played a flawed stroke at a ball that moved away from him; caught Lara, bowled Ambrose, 29. That was wicket number 397. Andy Caddick played back carefully, but missed; that was number 398.

Ambrose retired to third man, where the applause swelled a little over by over. Ambrose was concentrating on other things; he watched Darren Gough swipe a ball that rose high before falling neatly into his hands. The last wicket was not to be his 399th, but he had done enough: 4 for 30 for yesterday's work.

At the close of play, both sides thought 250 would be the key number for the fourth innings. Campbell said West Indies could defend it. Fletcher thought England could score it. Just as long as Amby does not come back again.

Scoreboard from Old Trafford

West Indies won toss

West Indies - First Innings

S L Campbell c Thorpe b Gough 2 (Edged seaming ball to second slip; 59 min, 36 balls) A F G Griffith lbw b Caddick 2 (Padded up to straight ball; 25 min, 19 balls) W W Hinds c Stewart b Cork 26 (Thin edge behind off slanting ball; 104 min, 70 balls, 2 fours) B C Lara c Thorpe b Gough 13 (Drove bouncing delivery low to second slip; 100 min, 74 balls, 2 fours) Adams c Thorpe b White 24 (Thick edge low to second slip; 164 min, 92 balls, 2 fours) R R Sarwan lbw b Cork 36 (Played around straight delivery; 121 min, 100 balls, 2 fours) +R D Jacobs b Caddick 5 (Bowled off pad by swinging yorker; 25 min, 20 balls, 1 four) F A Rose lbw b Cork 16 (Missed delivery swinging towards leg; 29 min, 20 balls, 1 four, 1 six) C E L Ambrose c Hussain b Caddick 3 (Caught high at mid-on off powerful drive; 6 min, 5 balls) R D King not out 3 (26 min, 17 balls) C A Walsh lbw b Cork 7 (Failed to bring bat down on straight delivery; 10 min, 6 balls) Extras (b1,lb12,nb7) 20 Total (315 min, 71.1 overs) 157

Fall: 1-3 (Campbell), 2-12 (Griffith), 3-49 (Hinds), 4-49 (Lara), 5-118 (Sarwan), 6-126 (Jacobs), 7-130 (Adams), 8-135 (Ambrose), 9-148 (Rose), 10-157 (Walsh).

Bowling: Gough 21-3-58-2 (nb4) (9-3-18-1 6-0-19-1 5-0-13-0 1-0-8-0), Caddick 24-10-45-3 (nb3) (12-5-17-1 5-1-14-0 4-4-0-0 3-0-14-2), Cork 17.1-8-23-4 (1-1-0-0 9-4-14-1 6-3-8-1 1.1-0-1-2), White 9-1-18-1 (one spell).

Progress: First day: Damp outfield prevented start until 12.00pm. Rain stopped play 12.56 - lunch taken 21-2 (Hinds 10, Lara 4) 13 overs. RSP 1.52-2.12pm 27-2 (Hinds 15, Lara 5) 17.2 overs. RSP 2.16-5.30pm 27-2 (Hinds 15, Lara 5) 18.2 overs. 50 in 126 mi ns, 29 overs. Close 87-4 (Adams 16, Sarwan 17) 42 overs. Second day: 100 in 199 min, 46.2 overs. Lunch 148-8 (Rose 16, King 2) 69 overs. 150 in 310 min, 70.3 overs. Innings closed 1.52pm.

England - First innings

M A Atherton c Campbell b Walsh 1 (Squared up by outswinger; 15 min, 16 balls) M E Trescothick b Walsh 66 (Deceived by slow yorker; 270 min, 163 balls, 6 fours, 1 sixes) *N Hussain c Adams b Walsh 10 (Looped bouncing ball to gulley off shoulder of bat; 43 min, 36 balls, 1 six G P Thorpe lbw b Walsh 0 (Deceived by slow yorker; 1 min, 1 ball) +A J Stewart c Jacobs b Ambrose 105 (Thin edge behind to wide delivery; 186 min, 153 balls, 13 fours) M P Vaughan c Lara b Ambrose 29 (Caught at slip pushing forward to away swinger; 144 min, 100 balls) C White b King 6 (Beaten for pace and bowled through gate; 34 min, 30 balls) D G Cork c Jacobs b Ambrose 16 (Edged good-length ball to wicketkeeper; 51 min, 35 balls, 2 fours) R D B Croft not out 27 (68 min, 44 balls, 2 fours) A R Caddick lbw b Ambrose 3 (Played across line to shortish ball that kept low; 8 min, 7 balls) D Gough c Ambrose b King 12 (Skied to third man; 23 min, 11 balls, 1 four) Extras (b10, lb6, nb12) 28 Total (426 min, 97.2 overs) 303

Fall: 1-1 (Atherton), 2-17 (Hussain), 3-17 (Thorpe), 4-196 (Stewart), 5-198 (Trescothick), 6-210 (White), 7-251 (Cork), 8-275 (Vaughan), 9-283 (Caddick), 10-303 (Gough).

Bowling: Ambrose 27-7-70-4 (nb1) (5-3-2-0 5-1-29-0 8-1-16-1 9-2-23-3), Walsh 27-14-50-4 (11-9-11-3 11-5-20-1 5-0-19-0), Rose 20-3-83-0 (nb7) (6-0-33-0 8-1-33-0 6-2-17-0), King 12.2-3-52-2 (nb3) (4-0-23-0 7-3-19-1 1.2-0-10-1), Adams 11-4-32-0 (nb1) (one s pell).

Progress: Second day: Tea 47-3 (Trescothick 24, Stewart 8) 22 overs. 50 in 105 min, 22.4 overs. 100 in 147 min, 32 overs. 150 in 196 mins, 44.3 overs. Close 196-3 (Trescothick 65, Stewart 105) 58 overs. Third day: 200 in 277 min, 65.3 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 247-6. 250 in 355 min, 82.2 overs. Lunch: 253-7 (Vaughan 23, Croft 0) 85 overs. 300 in 418 min, 95.3 overs. Innings closed 2.39pm.

Trescothick 50: 196 min, 122 balls, 5 fours, 1 six. Stewart 50: 98 min, 63 balls, 7 fours. 100: 172 mins, 136 balls, 13 fours.

West Indies - Second Innings

S L Campbell c Cork b White 55 (Gloved rising delivery to gulley; 133 min, 91 balls, 9 fours) A F G Griffith not out 41 (202 mins, 159 balls, 4 fours) W W Hinds not out 20 (45 mins, 34 balls, 5 fours) Extras (b5,lb2,w2,nb6) 15 Total (1 wkt, 202 mins, 48 overs) 202

Fall: 1-96 (Campbell)

Bowling: Gough 11-2-45-0 (nb6) (5-1-15-0 4-0-20-0 2-1-10-0), Caddick 7-3-16-0 (2-0-7-0 5-3-9-0), Cork 10-5-16-0 (7-4-10-0 3-1-6-0), Croft 14-4-32-0 (2-0-2-0 8-2-22-0 4-2-8-0), White 5-2-13-1, Trescothick 1-0-2-0 (w2) (one spell each).

Progress: Third day: 35-0 (Campbell 21, Griffith 12) 14 overs. 50 in 91 mins, 22.4 overs. 100 in 170 mins, 40 overs.

Campbell 50: 131 min, 90 balls, 9 fours.

Umpires: D B Cowie and P Willey TV Replay Umpire: K E Palmer.

Match Referee: R S Madugalle.

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