Test Cricket: Ambrose stirs up stalemate: Boon's determined century is devalued while Wessels' negative tactics compound a dire draw

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Australia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .293 and 266-6

West Indies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .371

AS HAS become his extraordinary habit, Curtly Ambrose took a match that was drifting towards sterility and shook it back to life, late on the fourth day of the first Test against Australia here yesterday.

Australia were confidently coasting towards close of play and safety at 248 for 3, 170 ahead, when Richie Richardson took the second new ball 40 minutes before the close and entrusted it to his beanpole fellow-Antiguan. Within 20 minutes Ambrose altered the course of a contest that was gradually losing the fascination it had held for two and a half days in the same way he had dramatically turned other Tests recently, notably against England in 1990 and South Africa earlier this year, both in Barbados.

In the space of 11 balls and at the cost of three runs, he first dispatched the dangerous Mark Waugh for 60 and then Damien Martyn and Greg Matthews, neutralising the effect of a typically dogged century, his 14th in Tests, by David Boon, whose 111 had pointed Australia towards security.

The equation going into the final day - Australia ahead by 188 with four wickets standing - opened the possibility of all four results, not excluding a repetition of Test cricket's first unforgettable tie between the same teams at the same Gabba ground 32 years ago.

Provoked into a state of glowering disgruntlement before lunch, when one of the umpires, Steve Randell, invoked the new International Cricket Council regulations and no-balled him for bouncing Steve Waugh twice in the same over, Ambrose used the same tactic to dismiss Waugh's twin brother, Mark, three hours later. Mark, again in sparkling touch, hooked the sixth delivery with the new ball but found Desmond Haynes posted on the square-leg boundary for just such an eventuality. The oldest man on the field swooped low and tumbled forward to claim a breathtaking catch.

Two overs later, Ambrose pushed both Martyn, the 21-year- old newcomer from Western Australia, and Matthews, the left- handed veteran, on to the back foot to gain lbw verdicts from Randell two balls apart.

Australia's advance, based principally on a run-a-minute third- wicket partnership of 110 between Boon and Mark Waugh, was abruptly halted, and would have been further undermined had Keith Arthurton, moving in quickly from cover, been accurate with his throw as Allan Border scrambled his first run.

The Australian captain was stretching his luck, for Arthurton missed an identical chance on his first run in the first innings. This time Border also stretched his hamstring muscle, which obliged him to use a runner, but his presence entering the last day is reassuring for the home team.

Until Ambrose struck so suddenly, Australia had successfully prevented the West Indies from capitalising on their first-innings lead of 78.

Resuming at 21 without loss, their operations were commanded by Boon. He was aided by being dropped off a straightforward chance by the usually sure-handed Carl Hooper at second slip off Ambrose in the day's second over before adding to his overnight six, by a pitch that doused the fire of the fast bowlers, and by the free- flowing Waugh.

The West Indies gained only one wicket in each of the first two sessions, the left-hander Mark Taylor in the first and Steve Waugh in the second, both caught behind.

Although never completely at ease throughout the first half of the day, Boon maintained concentration to bat for five hours 25 minutes, during which he hit 13 fours in all directions.

He is an unlikely sporting hero, built more like a koala than an Australian Test cricketer, but he is a difficult man to shift. Mark Waugh's positive stroke-play had an obvious influence on him, and while his first 50 occupied more than three cautious hours, his second came in a shade over two and off 44 fewer deliveries. When Ian Bishop finally surprised him with a sharp lifter from the lifeless pitch and he was well caught by Arthurton at cover, he appeared to have put Australia out of difficulty. But Richardson still had the new ball and Ambrose up his sleeve.

(Australia won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First innings 293 (A R Border 73; C L Hooper 4-75).

WEST INDIES - First innings 371 (K L T Arthurton 157no, B C Lara 58; B A Reid 5-112).

AUSTRALIA - Second innings

(Overnight 21 for 0)

M A Taylor c Williams b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 D C Boon c Arthurton b Bishop. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111 S R Waugh c Williams b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 M E Waugh c Haynes b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 D R Martyn lbw b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 * A R Border not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 G R J Matthews lbw b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 I A Healy not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Extras (4b 2lb 9nb). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Total (for 6). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .266

Fall: 1-64 2-114 3-224 4-250 5-255 6-255.

To bat: M G Hughes, C J McDermott, B A Reid.

Bowling (to date): Ambrose 23-7-46-4; Bishop 20-5-43-1; Walsh 21-3-57-1; Hooper 28-8-63-0; Patterson 7-0-44-0; Simmons 1-0-5-0; Arthurton 1-0-2-0.

Umpires: T Prue and S Randell.

Martin Crowe, the New Zealand captain, said on yesterday's rest day he regretted not playing a spinner during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Moratuwa. Sri Lanka will resume their first innings on 299 for 4 in reply to New Zealand's 288 on the fourth day today. 'It is very difficult when you don't know the form of players. We went in with some ideas and it didn't work out,' Crowe said.

(Photograph omitted)

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