September 21, 2003

The one and only Curtly

Wisden Cricinfo staff

All Today's Yesterdays - September 21 down the years

September 20 | September 22

1963
In Swetes Village, Antigua, one of the great fast bowlers was born. Curtly Ambrose came into one of the finest teams in cricket history and left one of the most desperate, but throughout his 12 years at the top level he set the highest standards. With unrelenting accuracy allied to considerable seam movement and at times chilling hostility, Ambrose was the ultimate quick bowler, combining the mechanical virtues of a McGrath with the irresistible force of a Gillespie. He was the author of some of Test cricket's most devastating spells: 8 for 45 to break England's will at Bridgetown in 1990; 7 for 1 in 32 balls in the series decider at Perth in 1992-93; and most memorably of all, when the Wisden Almanack said he came "rampaging in as if on springs," 6 for 24 as England were routed for 46 in Trinidad in 1994, stumps flying everywhere as a frenzied, cacophonous crowd bayed for English blood. In the summer of 2000 he became the fourth man to take 400 Test wickets before leaving Test cricket to a guard of honour and a standing ovation at The Oval.

1902
The birth of cricket's first real box-office allrounder, the West Indian Learie 'Connie' Constantine. A virile, muscular hitter, a bowler who in his prime was capable of fearsome pace, and a wonderfully elastic fielder - perhaps the greatest cover point in the history of the game - Constantine, the only man to clear the lime tree at Canterbury, was the prototype for the likes of Sobers and Botham. His Test record was modest - he averaged 19.24 with the bat and 30.10 with the ball - but, as is often the case with true entertainers, statistics do not tell half the story. He was idolised in Nelson, who he guided to an unprecedented eight Lancashire League titles in 10 years. But Constantine was more than just a mesmerizing cricketer: he wrote books; he was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple; he became an MP; he returned to England as High Commissioner for Trinidad and was awarded the MBE, knighted in 1962 and created a Life Peer before dying in Hampstead in 1971; posthumously he was awarded the Trinity Cross, his country's highest honour.

1959
He only played 11 Tests but Richard Ellison, who was born today, was the key man the last time England regained the Ashes, in 1985. Ellison took 10 for 104 at Edgbaston - memorably castling Allan Border in a spell of 4 for 1 late on the fourth evening - and 7 for 81 at The Oval as England clinched a 3-1 win with consecutive innings victories. With his military-medium pace and gentle late swing Ellison seemed to be the ultimate horse for an English course, but he would only play one more Test on home soil. His Test career was over at 26, just two months after he had become one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year and just nine after he had been England's Ashes darling.

1971
When John Crawley, who was born today, charmed the cricketing cognoscenti with a magnificent 109 to inflict on the touring 1993 Australians their only first-class defeat, he was just 21 and looked set for great things, but his Test career fell by the wayside. There were times when Crawley seemed to have cracked it - a brace of mature 70s in Australia in 1994-95, hundreds in consecutive Tests in 1996 and a thumping unbeaten 156 in Murali's match at The Oval in 1998 - but a penchant for playing almost exclusively to leg left him exposed in the corridor, a weakness ruthlessly and predictably exploited by the likes of Ambrose and McGrath. He returned to the side in 2002 and made a century against India at Lord's, and did not fare too badly on the winter tour of Australia, averaging 40 in three Tests.

1893
Despite Steve Waugh's best efforts there has still only been one Ashes whitewash in history, in 1920-21, and one of the key components of that triumph was born today. An aggressive right-hander, Clarence `Nip' Pellew made successive hundreds in that series: 116 in Melbourne and 104 in Adelaide, both times batting at No. 7. He made 319 runs in the five Tests at 53.16 but a poor tour of England the following summer - he made only one fifty in seven innings despite Australia's enduring omnipotence - meant he had played his last Test in Australia. Another failure in South Africa in 1921-22 was the last act of his 10-Test career.

1996
Muttiah Muralitharan ended with match figures of 7 for 134 as Sri Lanka wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe with a comprehensive ten-wicket win in the second Test at the SSC in Colombo.

1997
Pakistan flayed their way to a consolation five-wicket victory over India in the fifth one-day international in the Sahara Cup in Toronto, but the Indians still claimed the series 4-1. It was a good day for Ijaz Ahmed, who smashed a brutal 42-ball 60; less so for Indian seamer Abey Kuruvilla, who bore the brunt of Ijaz and Shahid Afridi's new ball assault - they put on 109 for the first wicket in 11 overs - and conceded 80 from 9.5 wicketless overs.

Other birthdays
1971 Adam Huckle (Zimbabwe)
1979 Chris Gayle (West Indies)