Enduring Ambrose rises to greatness

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The Independent Online

The celebrations that greeted Curtly Ambrose's 400th Test wicket here yesterday would have been as joyous and heartfelt throughout the Caribbean as they were among his team-mates in the middle.

The celebrations that greeted Curtly Ambrose's 400th Test wicket here yesterday would have been as joyous and heartfelt throughout the Caribbean as they were among his team-mates in the middle.

No bowler has won more lost causes for the West Indies, no one has undermined the confidence and reputations of more batsmen. Graeme Hick is not the only one who might have been able to fulfil his true potential if he had not had the misfortune to contend, first up, with Ambrose's ruthless exploitation of the slightest weakness in technique or tempera- ment.

Of all the great West Indian fast bowlers, only Courtney Walsh, with whom he has formed such an enduring and effective partnership, has lasted longer.

His statistics are formidable. Malcolm Marshall, from whom he learned so much, and Joel Garner are the only West Indians to have earned their wickets at less than his 21 runs each.

No opponents set his adrenalin racing more than England, against whom he has now collected 159 wickets at just over 18 runs each.

Michael Atherton should head the long list of those who will shed no tears at his decision to retire to the relaxed life of Antigua and devote more time to his wife and two young daughters, who were at Headingley yesterday to witness and celebrate his happy moment.

It was somehow inevitable that his 400th wicket would be Atherton's, for he has dismissed no batsman more than the England opener.

The West Indies have only one more Test before they have to accept the reality of life without the lanky Ambrose bounding in off his run, long legs pumping like pistons. Although he remains as fit and as competitive as ever, he has understandably lost some of his pace and has decided that the end of this series is the time to leave. He is the one West Indies can ill afford to lose, for all Walsh's phenomenal returns over the past couple of years.

Ambrose has missed only 10 Tests in his 12 years in West Indies' colours, all through either injury or fatigue, never throughout selectorial decision. Without him, the West Indies have lost eight and won only one, over India at Chandigarh in 1994.

It is a record that explains why, even now and in spite of Ambrose's stated intention, everyone connected with West Indies' cricket is still trying desperately to keep him going.

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