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Neither shy nor retiring - that's Curtly

By Mark Nicholas

Saturday 7 February 1998

A MONTH ago a story broke that Curtly Ambrose was to retire. When pushed on this he said, with ominous foreboding: ``Only Curtly decides when Curtly retires.'' Watching him during the first two days in Trinidad has been a revelation and a reminder of excellence in sport. From great destroyer, perhaps the greatest instant destroyer the game has known, he appears now to have become a master of seam bowling; more artist these days, than arch-villain. Retirement is palpably not on King Curtly's agenda.

The first sign of his enduring skill was the over that did for Michael Atherton. In the brief foray in Jamaica, Atherton thought that Ambrose came in harder than Courtney Walsh but since the pitch was so misleading he wondered if this was a false impression. It wasn't. No more is he super-quick but the nip and the bounce are there and he's quite fast enough, thank you kindly, for the odd hurry up, the odd thud into the heart.

First ball of that beaut of an over to Atherton was pitched at off stump on a good length and it seamed away. Atherton missed it. Second ball was fuller, drew Atherton's feet half forward and his bat a fraction away from his body before it swung out at the last nano-second, so he missed that as well. Third ball was the same length but a fraction wider and as it bounced it cut towards the slips. Atherton, mesmerised by the accuracy and magnetised to the swing, edged to first slip.

Ambrose knew Atherton must be dragged across his stumps so rather than waste energy on macho short-pitchers, which Atherton plays well, or on words, which Atherton ignores, he went for the Achilles heel - and exposed it.

The other sign was his contemptuous treatment of Dean Headley. After comfortable defence by Headley to a couple of balls from over the stumps 'The King' switched to bowl around them. He was bang on, first up, and the rearing, kicking ball flew at Headley's face, flicking the gloves en route to the wicketkeeper. It was a reminder not just that Curtly can still bowl, but still bully too.

Yup, it's all still there, if a little less frighteningly so than it was on this ground four years ago when he marmalised England for their collective 46. The slim, fit body; the military back; the long arms and perfectly high point of delivery; the straight lines and the on-a-piece-of-string accuracy. His final first-innings figures were 26 overs, 16 maidens, three for 23. In that startling analysis he has made his point . . . Only Curtly decides when Curtly retires.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:04