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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - A Curtly Ambrose-Steve Waugh stand-off for the ages

West Indies' bowler Curtly Ambrose successfully appeals for the wicket
West Indies' bowler Curtly Ambrose successfully appeals for the wicket
©Reuters

April 21, 1995 -  As was Ambrose's style, he ran up to Waugh in his follow through and dished up the famous stare. But unlike others, Tugga was quick to respond. As the two players stared at each other, threatening to break into a fight, West Indies skipper Richie Richardson had to pull away the enraged pace bowler.

 

 Famous cricket fight- CURTLY AMBROSE vs STEVE WAUGH- Trinidad 1995 3rd test

This was the time when West Indies were at the foothills of their glorious legacy. The Richie Richardson-led side had not lost a single Test series in 16 years. However, by the time Australia toured the Caribbean in 1995, the screws had begun to get loose. It was the individual brilliance of Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Brian Lara that still kept the team afloat.

When both teams reached Queen’s Park Oval for the third Test of the series, desperation was setting in in the Windies camp. Following a win in the ODI series by 4-1, the hosts had been demolished in the opening Test of the four-match series after getting bundled out for a meagre 195 and 189 in the two innings. The second Test had been drawn and West Indies needed to win this one in order to have a shot at winning the series at Kingston.

After Richie Richardson won the toss and invited Australia to bat, Courtney Walsh dismissed Michael Slater, and Curtly Ambrose accounted for Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh. When Steve Waugh walked in, the score read 14 for three and it was difficult to make out between the outfield and the square of the Queen's Park Oval.

Ambrose had been struggling a bit in the first two matches of the series, but with the pitch of his liking, the opposition on the back foot and Windies' reputation at stake, it was a big day for the quick. With the wickets of Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh, he had already tasted blood.

If that was not enough, a few pleasantries from Steve Waugh fired him up further. As was Ambrose's style, he ran up to Waugh in his follow through and dished up the famous stare. According to Waugh’s West Indian Tour Diary: “(Ambrose) followed through to within two metres away from me and gave me the regulation Clint Eastwood stare. I thought he went on with the silent assassin-style interrogation for longer (than) was necessary, so I came back with, ‘What the f*** are you looking at?'”

The giant pacer was about to turn, but suddenly stopped in his tracks. Exasperated at Waugh's comments, he said, “Don’t cuss me, maan.”

As the two players stared at each other, equally up for a fight, West Indies skipper Richardson had to pull away the enraged pace bowler.

“No-one had ever been stupid enough to speak to him like that," Waugh wrote in his Tour Diary. "His eyeballs were spinning and as he edged to within a metre, it seemed he was ready to erupt. At this point, I gave him a short but sweet reply that went down about as well as an anti-malaria tablet. Fortunately, Richie Richardson moved in swiftly to avert what could have been my death by strangulation, and the game continued."

As you would expect, the exchange spurred Ambrose on as he sent down a barrage of short balls on Waugh and his fellow batsmen. Ambrose ended the innings with 5 for 45 to bowl out the Australians for 128. But, Waugh too did not lose ground as he remained unbeaten on 63 - the only half-century of the match.

Australia fought back as they dismissed West Indies for 136 in the first innings. But, Ambrose was at it again in the third essay as he picked up four wickets to bowl out Australia for 105.

For Steve Waugh, it proved to a turning point in his career. Tugga smashed a double century in the last and the deciding match of the Test series and walked away with both the Player of the Match and the Player of the Series awards.

Australia's 2-1 win brought about a West Indian Test series loss after 16 years and so began the downfall of the greatest cricketing outfit.

 

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