A West Indian was born in Antigua, who grew up to become a 6’7” long giant and ended up tormenting every batting order at the international stage of cricket.
When a delivery is bowled from a level above batsman’s eyes, technically, it becomes harder for the batsman to judge the trajectory of it. The legendary Jeff Thompson had once stated that ‘Genuine speedsters often do not find it easy to be accurate.’
However, the ‘Giant’ we are talking about was accurate in his line and length and at the same time, delivered each ball with an express pace. That is why he was quite difficult to score runs off.
The fast Bowler being referred to here is none other than Curtly Ambrose, fondly known as the guy who bowled ‘7/1’. You will not find a soul on this planet who knows this Carribean and not his exceptional spell of 7/1 against Australia.
Ambrose made it to the grand stage of the game at a later part of his life as he opted for basketball as a career option. Later on, he played cricket and not surprisingly, it took him little time to graduate from the regional to the national level of cricket in his country courtesy the immense talent he possessed.
In 1988, he represented West indies for the first time and truly announced his arrival on the international scene. It was an ODI series against Pakistan where he played the first three of the five ODIs, claiming 3, 3 and 2 wickets respectively.
The Antiguan boasts a mighty tally of 405 wickets in his test career with a test average of 20.99 and has led the top bowling rankings for most of his career. That test average proves how much did he starve the batsmen of run scoring opportunities.
Let us remember and celebrate Curtly’s exceptional bowling spell that caught the attention of the entire cricketing world and still manages to raise every eyebrow of the person that recollects this magical spell.
The Stunning Spell
It was West Indies’ tour of Australia in 1993. The fifth match of the Test series was to be played and the series was tied 1-1 after West Indies managed to win the fourth Test by the narrowest margin of 1 run.
Hence, this Test match was a decider, condition being both teams play for a result and not a draw.
The West Indies went on to wrap up proceedings in just three days, winning the match by a margin of an innings and 25 runs. The bowling spell of Curtly Ambrose in the first innings, where he took 7 wickets while only a single run was scored off him, certainly inflicted the kind of damage from which Australia were unable to recover.
The match took place on the pitches of WACA in Perth, which has been labelled by many as one of the fastest pitches in the world. So it wasn’t surprising to see Ambrose pull off a vintage bowling performance.
Let us relive this spell wicket by wicket:
First Wicket: Mark Waugh gets caught behind owing to pinpoint accuracy
Curtly Ambrose was in his rhythm as he started his run up with Mark Waugh on strike. The delivery was pitched at a length perfect for the WACA pitch, allowing the ball to zip past the batsman once it had hit the surface.
The outside edge of Waugh’s bat was clipped on the way to wicketkeeper Murray, who took the catch comfortably at waist height after a small hop.
Mark Waugh took a curious glance at the pitch and then continued to walk towards the pavillion.
Score: Australia 58/2
Second Wicket: A well-set David Boon caught at slip
David Boon had his eyes set on a big knock and was calm right from the start of his innings. It seemed like Australia could expect a century from him, however, Curtly Ambrose was summoned by the West Indies skipper to deliver a breakthrough and he did.
David Boon fell prey to a good length in-swinger that prompted him to nudge at the ball, directing it to the slip cordon where Richardson’s safe hands claimed the catch. West Indies enjoyed this wicket as it was of a batsman who was well settled on the pitch.Score: Australia 90/4
Third Wicket: Border In, Border Out!
In came Allan Border at the fall of Boon’s wicket, and the legendary batsman took guard to face Ambrose who was on fire.
Ambrose stuck to bowling over the wicket to the left-handed Border and came up with an outswinger at a genuine pace, which was pitched in the line of middle stump at a length that was just short of good length. The ball swung away from the batsman sharply when he attempted to play it before gathering a feather of an outside edge on its way to the keeper.
Curtly Ambrose was filled with immense joy at this moment as he had struck twice in as many deliveries, although his eventual hat-trick ball was defended by wicketkeeper-batsman Ian Healy.
Should Curtly Ambrose have gone for a toe crusher or a steep bouncer instead?
Score: Australia 90/5
Fourth Wicket: Ian Healy’s hat-trick of ducks!
Ian Healy had come in to bat after Australia’s fifth wicket and was looking to improve on his previous two innings, which both ended in scores of 0.
After struggling to get off the mark in his first twelve deliveries, he nudged at an incoming delivery that swung a little towards him but surely wasn’t hitting the wickets. Probably the nervous energy got the better of him and instead of leaving the delivery, he ended up giving an outside edge to Brian Lara at first slip.
Ambrose was now one scalp away from a fiver.
Fifth Wicket: To Ambrose with love, Hughes
Hughes came in to support Damien Martyn as Australia were limping at 100/6. His role was to look for singles and give the strike to Martyn.
For reasons better known to Hughes, after 3 balls, he decided to swing hard at an Ambrose delivery. The ball looped into the air and couldn’t even cross the inner 30-yard circle, following which an easy catch was completed by Arthurton at cover.
This wicket was gifted to Ambrose by Hughes, it seemed.
Sixth Wicket: Martyn gets beaten by a juicy half volley and pace
Damien Martyn was the only recognised batsman left. Curtly Ambrose was on a carnage and continued to be a threat to the Australian batsman as he sprinted towards the bowling crease, with a sense genuine purpose in his eyes.
The West Indian quickie offered a half volley this time out and the cover drive was on. But the delivery was too quick for Martyn to react to as it took an outside edge off his bat and was caught safely by Simmons at second slip.
Seventh Wicket: Tailender gives up
Angel, the tenth batsman, was on the crease and certainly had very little idea about how to tackle a ball that comes from such a height and swings with such pace.
Ambrose bowled a delivery that was very well missing the off stump, but the tailender’s instincts made him poke at the delivery. The result was an easy caught behind dismissal, which summed up an incredible seven-wicket spell for just one run.
Score: Australia 104/9
The stunning bowling performance ensured that Australia went on to lose the test match and the series as a whole.
Just like this performance, Ambrose went on to single-handedly win his team many matches in both ODIs and Tests.