Advertisement

The day Tugga stared down Curtly

21 April 2017
Our voices

It was April 21, 1995 when two of the biggest names in world cricket came face to face during the third Test in Trinidad

About the Writer:
 @martinsmith9994

Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.

"That is the end of an over that will be written about in all the papers tomorrow and be discussed for many years to come by those who watched it."

On this day 22 years ago, Tony Cozier's wonderful off-the-cuff remarks summed up an enthralling contest between two of the best cricketers of the 1990s.

Austin Waugh on comparisons to father Steve

One was Curtly Ambrose, the two-metre tall fast bowler from Antigua, his long arms and legs almost flailing as he charged in to bowl on a Queen's Park Oval surface that was so green his captain Richie Richardson would later declare it unfit for Test cricket. 

The other was a headstrong 29-year-old from Sydney's western suburbs named Stephen Waugh, almost a foot shorter than his opponent but no less up for the fight in a series that would decide the unofficial world champions.

Australia held a 1-0 series lead going into the third of four Tests, but Waugh had come to the crease under cloudy skies with the tourists 3-14 after they were sent in to bat, with Ambrose having already dismissed captain Mark Taylor and Steve's twin brother Mark.

Ambrose was at his destructive best in Trinidad // Getty

After a few rounds of shadow boxing, Waugh's contest with Ambrose brought the excited crowd to its feet in the 14th over of the day when the Australian safely evaded a bouncer from the Windies spearhead.

Nothing out of the ordinary there; short balls were once as much a part of West Indies cricket as rum punch and jerk chicken, and this particular delivery was reasonably harmless, passing well over Waugh's head as it ballooned through to wicketkeeper Junior Murray.

Tall Tales and True: Deano's worst idea ever

But Ambrose's trademark glare and extended follow through, which brought him almost level with Waugh at the striker's end, riled the Australian.

"I thought he went on with the silent assassin-style interrogation for longer (than) was necessary," Waugh would later write in his tour diary. 

So the batsman fired back.

The exchange between the pair, cobbled together from Waugh's diary and his autobiography, is said to have gone something like this:

Waugh: What the f**k are you looking at?

Ambrose: Don't cuss me, man.

Waugh: Why don’t you go and get f**ked?

Ambrose and Waugh exchange words in Trinidad // Getty

By Waugh's own admission, it wasn't the most inventive or witty exchange ever uttered on a cricket field. But it was enough to push Ambrose to near breaking point.

“No-one had ever been stupid enough to speak to him like that," Waugh wrote.

"His eyeballs were spinning and as he edged to within a metre, it seemed he was ready to erupt.

Quick Single: Surprises in Aussies' Champions Trophy squad

"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."

The image of Richardson grabbing Ambrose by the left arm and attempting to drag him away from Waugh remains a defining moment of that tour and Waugh's career.

Richardson attempts to drag Ambrose away from Waugh // Getty

The all-conquering Windies had not lost a Test series in 15 years, yet in conditions that had been specifically designed to suit their powerful fast-bowling unit, a plucky Australian batsman was almost literally standing toe-to-toe with the leader of their attack.

As Richardson ordered his charge to return to the top of his mark, diminutive English umpire David Shepherd – whose floppy white hat barely reached the height of Ambrose's shoulder – gave the fired-up quick a pat on the back and a reminder that he had bowled one of only two bouncers he was allowed for the over.

Quick Singled: Broad's helping hand to Ashes rival

Unsurprisingly, Ambrose didn't waste much time in delivering his second permissible short ball; as inevitable as night following day, he fired in another bouncer soon afterwards, with a short leg and leg gully in place.

Unlike the one that preceded it, this bumper was well directed and struck Waugh on the gloves before landing safely on the off-side.

Another extended follow through from Ambrose and a look that would have reduced a lesser man to tears was met with not much more than a blank stare from Waugh, who nonchalantly chewed gum and adjusted his protector, all the while making sure he maintained eye contact with his opponent.

If looks could kill ... Ambrose stares down Waugh

It was false bravado of the highest order.

"I was left standing there thinking 'I've smashed open a hornet's nest here, what am I going to do?'" Waugh recalled.

"It's on TV, there are millions of people watching, you can't look like a coward and back away now. You've got to stand there and pretend you're tough.

"(After the first bouncer) I was hoping and praying that Richie Richardson was going to come in and pull him away because he was far too big for me."

Quick Single: Ambrose among Test cricket's top road warriors

Waugh played and missed at the final ball of the over, triggering another glare from Ambrose, another rousing cheer from the heaving crowd and leading Cozier to utter those memorable words.

The Australian stood firm until the very end, finishing unbeaten on 63 after more than three hours at the crease, but Ambrose's five-wicket haul helped rout the visitors for just 128.

Waugh had won the individual contest, but Ambrose and the Windies would finish the match triumphant.

The paceman finished with match figures of 9-65 as the home side won by nine wickets to level the series. Waugh's innings was the only half-century of a match that lasted just 163.5 overs.

Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne ponder Australia's heavy defeat // Getty

It may have come in a losing cause, but Waugh's performance proved to be a turning point in his career.

He hit a double-century in the fourth Test in Jamaica the following week as Australia secured the victory they needed to win the Frank Worrell Trophy for the first time in 17 years.

It was Waugh's eighth hundred of a Test career that was already into its 10th year. In the ensuing nine years, he posted another 24 centuries at Test level.

His stand-off with Ambrose was theatre fit for a Hollywood blockbuster, and was described as such; Waugh later referenced Ambrose's "Clint Eastwood stare", while Wisden recalled that the Australian had "stood his ground like John Wayne".

And as forecast by Cozier at the time, it was a moment that is still being spoken about more than two decades later.

Join the Australian Cricket Family

Top Stories

Test-3---Day-1---Lunch-still


Mitch Marsh recalled, Handscomb dropped


Prolific Smith reveals his three best Test tons


Preview: Stars chase elusive title


Eager Siddle ready to seize opportunity