Bangladesh v West Indies, 2nd Test, Khulna, 3rd day November 23, 2012

Samuels, the Test batsman

Marlon Samuels is now an integral part of West Indies' long-form plans; it had taken him a while to get things right in Test cricket, but he seems to have now worked his way into the form of his life

Had Marlon Samuels survived that delivery from Rubel Hossain late in the day in Khulna, he would have hit sixes "for the rest of the evening". That's in his words. After ten hours and more of discipline and calculative strokeplay, which got him 40 runs shy of a triple-hundred, this declaration at the post-play press conference was his most brash shot.

"If I didn't get out that ball, I was waiting for the spinners - it was a harder ball [the third new ball was taken about four overs earlier] on a slow surface. I would have been hitting some sixes continuously for the rest of the evening," Samuels said. "It is most definitely disappointing [not to get a triple-hundred]. Nevertheless, a double-century is a big milestone and I have to work with it, and enjoy it to the fullest."

The 260 Samuels made here is his highest Test score, surpassing his previous best of 123, which he made three months previously against New Zealand. Samuels had his share of luck - he even survived the ball hitting the stumps without dislodging the bails when he was on 167 - but close shaves didn't fluster him. This was a consummate effort from a batsman at his very best.

He began the day rather fluently, scoring 82 off 81 balls as he neared his first double-century. After lunch his change of pace was remarkable, and his strike-rate dropped down to 34. He resumed the more positive approach in the evening session, scoring 40 off 57 balls till he was dismissed. The patience he showed and the adjustments he made to prolong his innings were worthy of note.

Samuels explained the thinking behind the ebb and flow of his runs: "The way Bangladesh are playing on this pitch, they are continuing to put everyone on the boundary. They wanted me to go over the top consistently. There were a lot of singles to take, I don't mind that until the mid-on and mid-off come up and then I take the chance going over the top.

"It is not the kind of track where you can start driving the ball when you get in. It is on the slower side. Bangladesh's field is spread, so definitely you have to try and enjoy taking singles, and wait for the boundaries to come. You have to wait for the bad ball and continue to rotate the strike as much as possible."

This has been a great year for Samuels, the best he has had in the ten years in Test cricket. He has topped his previous best score every time he has crossed the 100-mark and, so far, has racked up 866 runs this year, the fourth-highest aggregate overall - Michael Clarke, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Alastair Cook, who are above him on the list, have played more innings. His average of 86.6 is a far cry from the 32 he averaged last year, when he returned to the Test team after three years.

The break helped him prioritise his life and, as a result, he seems to have grown as a cricketer. His promise at the end of the World Twenty20 final, in which West Indies triumphed and he was the Man of the Match, was that he would score five centuries by the end of the year. He now has four scores of over 100 this year, across formats, but said he would like to think of this double as two hundreds: "I said at the end of the World T20 final that I wanted two more centuries [this year] so yes, this double century is two centuries."

He is now a batsman who is an integral part of a Test team. The route he had chosen to progress from his early days of flamboyance to his current solidity wasn't an easy one to navigate, but given the satisfaction a comeback such as his brings, Samuels probably wouldn't have liked it any other way.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh

Comments