August 17, 2000

Test evenly poised after Ambrose reaches milestone

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Cornhill Insurance

For over twelve years now Curtly Ambrose has been putting the fear of God up batsmen all over the world. But that will not happen for much longer as this supreme fast bowler insists on bowing out of international cricket at the end of this series. It is of no surprise that this exceptional man does so having today joined that exclusive, elite group of just four who have reached four hundred Test wickets.

Such illustrous cricketers as Sir Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram and Kapil Dev are in that group but leading it with 475 wickets is Courtney Walsh, the man who has formed a most formidable bowling partnership with Ambrose. Between them they have accumulated a staggering 875 Test wickets as they went about demolishing the strongest batting line-ups over the years.

Today they shared the five wickets that England lost for 105 by stumps and once again, as is usually the case, the runs came more easily when these two stalwarts were replaced. For England, Graham Thorpe's innings of 46 was the only one of any note, but with 67 runs behind and five wickets remaining in the first innings the match is evenly poised after the first day.

The Headingley pitch lived up to its reputation of assisting pace bowlers but in the absence of low clouds - indeed, the first morning of the fourth Test was greeted by a lovely blue sky which remained so for the rest of the day - Jimmy Adams decided to make first use of a wicket which had little grass. He certainly would not have wanted to bat last on the Headingley wicket which deteriorates rather than get any easier for batting.

Although he lost Sherwin Campbell in only the third over, Adams wouldn't have been unduly concerned until the score had reached 50 for 1 when things began to happen for England.

Craig White, who finished with his Test best figures of 5 for 57 and looks now to be such an improved bowler, began an alarming West Indies collapse. He swung the ball most effectively into the left handers and that movement was the basis of his first three dismissals.

He brought one in sharply into Wavell Hinds who got a thin edge to it to be caught behind and struck again quickly in his next over when he trapped the master batsman Brian Lara leg before. He drew him forward and moved the ball across towards leg stump.

After Darren Gough had removed Adrian Griffith, White again produced the in-swinger to Jimmy Adams who played on, via the inside edge. It reduced West Indies to 5 for 60 before lunch and White had been instrumental in that batting debacle.

It took an unbeaten half-century from young Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was ably supported by Ridley Jacobs to halt the slide. Playing in only his fourth Test, Sarwan has shown tremendous potential since making his debut last May.

This Test is already showing signs of a close finish.