When a bowler of the experience of Curtley Ambrose decides that he favours bowling from the Pavilion End at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, the batsmen begin to view that end of the pitch with extreme suspicion. Bowling from a height that is associated more with low flying Cessnas than cricket ball delivery, Ambrose is lethal when the pitch is two paced. The Queen's Park Oval has provided a track that is less than ideal to bat on. In the last few years, tracks in the West Indies have gradually become slower and lower.
All Ambrose had to do to win the psychological battle was get one delivery to keep low. When he came on to bowl after lunch, the other war horse, Courtney Walsh had already put the fear of the devil in the visitors. Getting a shooter to go through the defenses of Grant Flower, Walsh clean bowled the one man who had resisted the hosts. Having gotten rid of the captain, on 26, the Windies had Zimbabwe reeling at 51 for 5. With just 99 runs to chase, the Zimbabwe batsmen crept into a shell, fearing non existent gremlins in the wicket.
In the past, there have been many occasions where the veterans have laid out a solid platform, only to be let down by the second string bowlers. That certainly was not the case yesterday. Franklin Rose, who has been in and out of the West Indian side in the last five years, came up with the goods when it mattered most. Bowling a good line, right on the stumps, Rose cramped the batsmen up for room. Ending with figures of 13-4-19-4, Rose ripped through the visitors. Backing Rose up was Reon King bowling straight up and down. Hitting the deck hard, King too understood what was required of him.
However, the man who put the final nails in the Zimbabwe coffin was Curtly Ambrose. Cleaning up a tail that never threatened to wag, Ambrose ended with 3 wickets for 8 runs off his 11 overs. The delight on the faces of the hosts was there for all to see as newly appointed skipper Jimmy Adams plucked a stump out of the ground and leapt into the air with a wide grin that simply could not be erased.
When he picked up the man of the match award from Michael Holding another great fast bowler, Ambrose was at his charismatic best. Holding asked Ambrose whether he was happy with the way the youngsters (Rose and King) had backed him up, Ambrose replied "People say that West Indies will go through a crises when Courtney (Walsh) and I retire. I don't agree with them. Rose and King showed that they can pick up wickets at regular intervals. With experience they should come through." For Ambrose to speak of King and Rose in that manner bodes well for West Indian cricket. When Holding asked Ambrose whether the youngsters were ready to fill his boots, Ambrose replied "Mikey, the boys wear size twelve and I'm a size fourteen, it will be while before they get there!" The presentation party was in splits of laughter.
West Indies cricket looked healthy once more. Brian Lara, taking a timely break was at the dressing room on all five days of the match egging his team on. Perhaps it's time all those doomsday prophets take a close look at the spirit that drives West Indian cricket.