Cricketers pick their favourites

'He demolished batting line-ups when it mattered'

Part seven: Allan Donald picks the most intimidating bowlers he has watched. This week: Curtly Ambrose

Produced by: Gokul Chakravarthy; Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi

June 26, 2013


Curtly Ambrose

'He demolished batting line-ups when it mattered'

June 26, 2013

Curtly Ambrose bowls, England v West Indies, sixth Test, The Oval, 25 August 1995
Ambrose: no half-volleys © Getty Images

I first saw Curtly Ambrose during a triangular series in Australia - West Indies, Australia, New Zealand in Australia. Dean Jones asked him to take his sweat band off. I'll never forget that. Ambrose stopped in the middle of the wicket. He couldn't believe that Dean Jones actually asked him to take his sweat band off. (Because it was white and you're not supposed to have a white sweat band with a white ball.)

It didn't take him long to sort Dean Jones out, but the capability of doing that, to actually go out there and execute that and hit him square on the head and get him out and then telling him where to go and stick the sweat band was brilliant… brilliant footage.

For me, Curtly Ambrose had a streak. He had a very mean streak, as I found out when he laid me out on the pitch in 1998 in a series in South Africa. He never gave anything away. He never said a word but the face told many stories and you know the eyes. He just had to flick back his head and you knew what was about to come. He probably had one of the best bouncers in the game, because it wasn't as short as most people's, because he was such a tall man. He could actually pitch it a little bit further up, which meant that it was always hitting the target or just missing you. It was a steep bouncer.

I saw a spell against Steve Waugh where the two guys almost came to blows, where Waugh didn't back down. That spell was on a bit of a dodgy Trinidad wicket - it was up and down and Waugh got absolutely punished everywhere: in the ribs, in the arms, but he stood his ground.

Then it was another spell. I think it was in Perth where he took… was it 6 for 1?

Another spell, in Trinidad again, against England. He had the luxury of being 6ft 10, and it didn't take him a lot of effort to bowl a really good bouncer.

He had the most beautiful wrist. You know, when we are trying to tweak something out of a bowler, we say to use your wrist properly. It just came natural to him.

It wasn't express pace but he was quick. He was quick enough. I'm talking 145… that's quick enough.

What made him difficult to play was his enormous bounce, and he would never - I could swear that in the time that I've seen him or faced him - bowl you a half-volley.

He hardly tried to pitch the ball up. He was just relentless in his areas, just locked you away from one end and made you work so hard. The batsmen who were successful against him left him on bounce, but when you left him on bounce, he was always on the stump. He was never far away.

The one spell I forgot to mention was our first Test match, against West Indies in 1992, where Walsh and Ambrose cleaned us up, and it was fascinating to see that when it really mattered Ambrose was always there, stuck his hand up and completely demolished batting line-ups.

When you speak to young guys or in team meetings about wanting to be in that position to make a difference, Ambrose was one of those. He was absolutely magnificent. Yes, they had a Walsh on the other end, and maybe a Marshall, but it was unbelievable to see that guy take that responsibility and be that intimidating when he needed to be, and execute also in a time of crisis. He was right up there in my estimation.

Posted by Bagapath on (June 28, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

I love Allan Donald. Legendary pacer, committed team man and generous coach. But his memory could be playing tricks here. He says Ambrose "hit him square on the head and get him out and then telling him where to go and stick the sweat band was brilliant… brilliant footage". I am not sure if all this happened. In that game he is talking about, Curtly did take 5-32 after Deano fired him up unintentionally. But Jones was not one of the five victims. Also, I don't recall Ambrose speaking anything rudely, actually anything at all, to any opposition cricketer ever. I don't think Donald was intentionally embellishing an already great anecdote. It is just probably what he would have done to Deano if he were the bowler.

Posted by Robster1 on (June 28, 2013, 0:55 GMT)

In my all time world XI - stupendously good bowler and proud man. Respect.

Posted by SDCLFC on (June 27, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

He's my fav out of all fast bowlers ever. In 92-93 the Windies were playing awful, save from some Brian Lara magic in Sydney, and Allan Border thought he had the series won. Then Curtly said no. He suddenly became completely unplayable in the finals of the one-dayers and took I think 17 wickets in the final two test matches, including a spell in Perth of 7 wickets for 1 run. When experts pick their finest sides of all time and they pick their bowling line-ups of Lillee, Warne, Barnes or whoever, and pair them with a Bradman lead batting line-up, I just stop and think of the names of Holding, Marshall, Garner and Ambrose and wonder, do you think you've still got the best bowling line-up and how sure are you that Bradman is still going to be invincible? I would take an all-time West Indies team over an all-time best of the rest (I know that's ridiculous so just forgive me and think of some names)

Posted by harshthakor on (June 27, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

Resembled a computerized bowling machine like few other paceman.What he lacked in pure pace or variety he compensated with phenomenal accuracy and consistency.No paceman of his ear was as relentless.Above all Ambrose bore the brunt of a weak batting team.

It was a photo-finish between Glen Mcgrath,Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambroes.However Ambrose was the ultimate match-winner particularly when defending low targets.He was the best bad wicket paceman of all time as he showed on deteriorating tracks in 4th innings.

Arguably he was more lethal than even Malcolm Marshall on Australian tracks.What may have gone against him is that he lacked the variety for sub -continent pitches.Neverthless he posessed a trajectory of his own.It was really sad that we never saw him on a test tour of India like his partner Courtney Walsh.

One of the most competitive and hostile cricketers ever who resembled a shark pouncing on his prey in full cry .

Posted by   on (June 27, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

My favourite cricketer of all time, bar none. With King Curt, unplayable was everyday.

Posted by   on (June 27, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

What Hayden said about Curtly Ambrose sums it up for me: "Curtly was the best opposition bowler I ever faced by far. You were always under pressure with him. Did he bowl a bad over ... ever? A bad ball? A full toss? I'm sure he did, but it never seemed that way when you were facing him". LEGEND!

Posted by debaki on (June 27, 2013, 6:34 GMT)

One of the most mightiest fast bowler of the world cricket.He is the batsman nightmare.Do not know the world cricket can see this kind of fast bowler.You can say he is a true complete fast bowler.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 20:55 GMT)

Just watched all seven episodes in one sitting. Great stuff. Enjoying it immensely.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 20:54 GMT)

I remember all too well the spell that triggered England's 46 all out in the 94 series. Me and my old man watching and hoping that we'd knock off a reasonably small target, but when Curtly was in the mood there really wasn't much you could do.

It's worth remembering for all those who thought the Aussie dominance of the late 90s and early 2000's made them the best team of all time - it took them until 1995 to knock the Windies off their perch, and that was 10 years past their peak. The reason they held on to top spot for so long? Curtly and Courtney - what a great pair of bowlers

Posted by venkatSan on (June 26, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

Who could forget the beautiful leg cutter Ambrose bowled to get rid of Sachin in one the triangular series matches (in Australia)..not sure if it is on bouncy Perth wicket. The beatiful leg cutter left Sachin dumbfounded!

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (June 26, 2013, 16:02 GMT)

I consider Australian pitches to be the most unforgiving and rewarding only the best batsmen or the best bowlers but no one else. Of late they have become flattish and batsmen score 196 adn 169 in the second innings against the home team in Perth...

But back then when things were more neutral, every visiting bowler had an equal shot. Hadlee has a lower average (around 17) but with the benefit of a great series against a weak team in 1985-86.

But the undisputed emperor is Ambrose - 14 tests, 79 wickets, average 18. All against the best Australian batting line ups in their history, indeed in any team's history. Mostly alone, with patchy support from Walsh, Bishop, Kenny Benjamin and others.

No one comes close...none at all.

Posted by SanchitSabharwal123 on (June 26, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

he is world"s no. 1 bowler of all time.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 14:27 GMT)

Loved Curtly! Can never forget this delivery to Sachin in '92 world cup that sealed the match for WI. Despite his lethalness, always had a ready smile. Miss such split personalities, especially fast bowlers. May the Pakistanis and West Indians produce many more who can carry the legacy of their predecessors.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

The most consistently excellent bowler the world has ever seen. And yep, when it mattered, he defended the West Indian castle like no bowler before or since. Deep sense of pride and responsibility for his country.

Posted by stormy16 on (June 26, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

Saw his spell to Jones ad the one in Perth and it still is one of those memories that linger. This guy was an unbelievable bowler and his control was amazing. There could be few worse case scenarios in cricket than having to face Ambrose with the new ball.

Posted by Un_Citoyen_Indien on (June 26, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

400 test wickets at an average of 20. This man is a must have in your all time fantasy XI. He is in mine. As are Marshall, Akram and Khan.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (June 26, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

Ambrose is the best bowler of the last 20 odd years.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 3:03 GMT)

No second thoughts about it!!! Amby will be in the top 3 of all time great bowlers of the game. A notch ahead of McGrath, Akram and rest of the bowlers during his era.

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