Great fast bowler's enigmatic farewell

Tony Cozier sees England's great tormentor finish with a flourish
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The Independent Online
As Curtly Ambrose made his premature exit from The Oval yesterday with a theatrical gesture that hinted it would be the last time he would be seen in a Test in this country, there would have been a mixture of admiration and relief from home supporters, distress among West Indians.

Ambrose has been, since his dramatic entrance into international cricket as an unknown in 1988, the consistent spearhead of the game's most effective attack. He has repeatedly demolished opponents with his pace, control and commonsense and the use of his God-given height.

No one has suffered more at his hands than England and, during one of the finest spells of the series, he again threatened to transform a match destined to be a draw into another nightmare for them.

As Michael Holding did on the same ground in 1976 with his incredible 14 wickets, Ambrose made a mockery of a similarly docile pitch. His five- wicket return in the first innings was certainly no more than he deserved for his persistent accuracy.

He was duly entrusted with the task of shaking England's resolve at the start yesterday, and for an hour and 25 minutes he kept plugging away, repeatedly beating the bat, somehow striking fire out of the barren surface and generally causing discomfort to those at the opposite end.

He was simply too good for Jason Gallian and John Crawley, two comparative rookies to the hurly-burly of Test cricket. However, he could not shake the dogged and determined Michael Atherton. He has had, over the years, many jousts with the game's finest batsmen, but none have been more intriguing than those against the England captain.

Richie Richardson, the West Indies captain, dismissed Ambrose's arm waving. Like everyone else in the West Indies, he will hope it signifies nothing, for his fellow Antiguan has shown that even if the grind of so much cricket has taken a physical toll, he remains as effective a bowler as any still playing.