The last hurrah for quiet king of mean

Any inquiry about Curtly Ambrose's chief merit as a fast bowler yields a common response. He gives his adversaries nothing to hit. For over after over after metronomic over, Ambrose has them wondering whether to come forward or go back, and scoring is hardly an option.

Any inquiry about Curtly Ambrose's chief merit as a fast bowler yields a common response. He gives his adversaries nothing to hit. For over after over after metronomic over, Ambrose has them wondering whether to come forward or go back, and scoring is hardly an option.

The economy-rate column against his name bears this out. Of all those modern fast bowlers who have taken huge hauls of wickets, the gangly Antiguan has been the most miserly. He has allowed under 40 runs per 100 balls to be scored from him. That is three runs fewer than the next lowest, Imran Khan, four fewer than Sir Richard Hadlee, whose reputation for rigid accuracy was no less deserved. It may not be a large gap, but over a long career it counts, and it demonstrates the unique hardship that batsmen have faced these past 12 years against Ambrose.

There is another particular quality mentioned by those who have played with or against him. His silence. He has taunted batsmen by his menace as a bowler rather than by any verbal terrorism. Occasionally he has stared, his elbows on his hips above his endless legs. But not for long. He has then maybe shaken his head incredulously and walked back. Not a word has emanated from him. Contrast that with other speed merchants of recent vintage.

The West Indian fast men have never gone in for verbals - their intimidation often hardly needed it - but Ambrose has been quiet by their standards as well. A brooding presence, some would say.

He has been strict in keeping his own counsel. His outburst a couple of weeks ago to his former opening partner Ian Bishop, now almost as perceptive a television commentator as he was a bowler, was the more compelling for its rarity. Ambrose merely made the point that some of the younger bowlers might be doing more to ease his burden.

His career has been as seamless as it has been long. Most players have peaks and troughs. Ambrose has always seemed to be on top of his game. The accuracy was there from the start, the wickets started immediately, the action was simple and easy.

He was not a prodigy. When he was first capped, against Pakistan in Guyana, he was six months past his 24th birthday. But he had been allowed to mature, so that when he was selected he was ready. That was in early 1988, and that summer he came to England for the first time. He made an immediate impression. It was Malcolm Marshall's series with 35 wickets, but Ambrose had 22 in West Indies' 4-0 victory and never looked back. A sure indication of his effect was that he was already known to a wider public as, simply, Curtly. No further explanation was necessary.

Curtly saved his very best for Australia, when it was needed, and England, when sometimes something less might have done. Not this time, not at The Oval when he gangles on to the field for the final time.

He has taken 128 wickets against the Aussies at 21.23, 161 against England at 18.68. For West Indies to retain their magnificent record against England, unbeaten for 31 years, a record which Ambrose has helped sustain in seven series, he will have to roll back the years, and the eyes, one more time.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor