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Curtley joins the 300 club

There was an agonising wait before he finally made it to a very exclusive club but the West Indies beanpole Curtley Ambrose probably knew that it was a matter of time. From 285, he'd gone to 295 in three Tests against India when train conspired to keep him there. Two frustrating Tests went by and the big Antiguan had to exercise patience of a high order, something which he is not famous for. The weather ensured that he would not be able to join the 11 others who comprised that group up until then.

Ambrose is a moody bowler. Sometimes he is really on fire and he was that way in the first Test against Lanka. All it took was one innings and the big feller was there, on his home ground, in front of his very own. Three hundred wickets, 71 Tests, eight years since he made his international debut against Pakistan. Then he was part of a extremely vicious quartet which included his present skipper Courtney Walsh. Malcolm Marshall, his present coach was there too, and the world will probably never see a fast bowler of his class again. Over the years, Ambrose has had to carry more and more of the burden but he has never shirked his task.

That five-wicket haul which took him to 300 was his 18th in Tests; he has also taken 10 wickets or more in a Test thrice, his best figures being eight for 45 against England at Bridgetown seven years ago. Not content with reaching the mark, he added three more in the second innings and now has 303 at 21.58 runs apiece -- the second best average for the 300 club behind Marshall whose 376 wickets were taken at 20.95 runs apiece. Considering the fact that he has always hunted as part of a quartet, the wickets have been more difficult to come by than, say, for a player who has just been the one strike bowler for his team.

But at 33, life is not getting any easier, especially not when a lot of that life is spent trundling up to the crease and matching wits with batsmen who are increasingly younger than oneself. Ambrose has a break of three months after the series against Lanka; then the West Indies head for Pakistan where they will play in a four-nation one-day tournament to mark the 50th anniversary of Pakistan's independence and then take on the host country in three Test matches. How long will he keep going?

In interviews, Ambrose has indicated that he will take it as it comes -- one day at a time. Thirty-three is indeed quite old for a fast bowler and he is still expected to function as the main strike force. His skipper is a year older and together they have fashioned many a famous victory. Ambrose has one more thing to be proud of -- his batting. He has over 1,000 runs in Tests! And he does take those stints at the crease very seriously, never mind if he cuts a slightly comical figure, such a tall man crouched over what seems a very little bat. His joining the club has brought one more distinction to the West Indies -- they have the most members of that club, four out of 12.

The 300 club:

PlayerTestsWicketsAverageBest bowling5WI10WM
Kapil Dev (Ind)13143429.649-83232
R. Hadlee (NZ)8643122.309-52369
I. Botham (Eng)10238328.408-34274
M. Marshall (WI)8137620.957-22224
Imran Khan (Pak)8836222.818-58236
D. Lillee (Aus)7035523.927-83237
C. Walsh (WI)9233326.017-37132
R. Willis (Eng)9032525.208-43160
Wasim Akram (Pak)7231122.687-119214
L. Gibbs (WI)7930929.098-38182
F. Trueman (Eng)6730721.588-31173
C. Ambrose (WI)7130321.388-45 183