England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day May 25, 2012

Samuels shows his new focus

Marlon Samuels has been through a lot in his career, but after his unbeaten hundred against England at Trent Bridge the West Indian batsman is beginning to look the real deal in Test cricket.

Nine runs short of his fifty, Marlon Samuels suddenly checked his off stump even as Tim Bresnan was mid-stride in his run-up. It was the first ball after tea. Samuels wanted to make sure he was not out of his comfort zone, which he had built painstakingly and patiently in the previous session and a half. Next delivery, Bresnan pitched short, wide and outside the off stump. Samuels stood tall to unleash a powerful cut which went crashing into the point boundary. He repeated the same stroke to end the over and bring his second fifty in successive innings.

By the end of the day, Samuels would go on to raise his bat and celebrate his third Test century, something he said he had wanted to achieve here "because England are the No. 1 team." His was indeed the pièce de résistance at Trent Bridge on Friday.

"No need for sweaters. No need to jumpers. No need for jackets," Michael Holding happily described the atmosphere at the ground. Yet, instead of enjoying the day in the sun, the West Indies batsmen seemed to be in a hurry to take refuge in the dressing room with the first six wickets falling even before the ball was 50 overs old.

At least at Lord's, in the second innings, Samuels had Shivnarine Chanderpaul for support. The pair had stifled England's march on the fourth day with a record partnership, but Samuels had missed out on a deserved century in the second innings, as he went chasing a delivery he should have left alone.

Today he started rusty, playing either too early or at times too lazily to survive some close calls. England's plan was to keep Samuels rooted to his crease. But Samuels, too, had a plan: he wanted to make sure all the right things he did at Lord's were continued with and not repeat the mistakes.

Without being harsh it was apt that Chanderpaul was not around to chaperone the Jamaican. In any case, Samuels now believes he is his own man. During his the two-year ban, he said, if there was one thing he learned, it was to trust no man. So he only had to trust himself.

Luckily Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, has shown a lot of faith in Samuels, by giving him a long-enough rope to make his comeback. In the interim the team management has been working hard on Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards, expecting the pair to strengthen the top order. But Samuels remained unaffected. He returned from the IPL and after scores of 32 and 44 against England Lions he walked into the Test series confidently.

It was fascinating to watch him duel with England's fast bowlers and Graeme Swann through the day. Early on a James Anderson short-pitched delivery missed his face by inches as Samuels ducked away in the nick of time, but in the process lost his footing and rolled over on his back. But before the umpire could start the count, Samuels, like a spirited boxer, bounced back on his feet.

During tea, the crowd was introduced to Lucian Bute and Carl Froch, two men who will contest in the boxing ring on Saturday for the IBF super middleweight crown. Speaking about how he aims to beat the undefeated Bute, Froch, from Nottingham, said he would like to "render him unconscious," although he had immense respect for the Romanian who has held the title for five years.

Samuels now believes he is his own man. During his the two-year ban, he said, if there was one thing he learned, it was to trust no man. So he only had to trust himself

Perhaps Samuels and Darren Sammy had listened to Froch's words, which had even drawn a smile from Viv Richards whose childhood hero was Joe Frazier. The second session had been hard grind for the visitors as they tried to get back into the match, but that changed in the evening. Instead of slowing down the run rate and playing time, Sammy believed in pressing the accelerator.

That served a dual purpose. It conquered whatever nerves there were after Shivnarine Chanderpaul's departure and simultaneously pumped up the scoring rate. At tea West Indies were stuttering at 154 for 6. By stumps, they had added 150 runs in the final session in 33 overs, including 70 in the first hour. Contrast that with the same period after lunch: the first boundary came after 74 deliveries and 70 minutes when Chanderpaul played an unattractive off drive off Broad.

England were on the back foot. Andrew Strauss wore a furrowed brow throughout the last session as his bowlers became more and more frustrated and vented their fury in the form of exchanging words with the batsmen, who quietly enjoyed a smile with a bowed head.

But with Sammy at the other end, Samuels had to be alert. He did well to temper Sammy's exuberance at times. Like when the West Indies captain aimlessly charged Swann an hour after tea, slogged over midwicket and wanted to take a second. Samuels refused to budge. He was well aware of the strong streak of casualness Sammy possesses with the bat and guarded it well.

Sammy did improvise in Swann's next over when he lofted him for the first six of the series. Both men did not speak much only because Samuels, in the Chanderpaul mould, likes to stick to his plan. But Sammy complimented Samuels nicely. As he reached 80, Samuels slowed down as he took 35 deliveries to move from 80 to 90. In that time Sammy had galloped from 29 to 79.

Sammy's hardened attitude to take whatever Anderson and his team-mates threw at him not only motivated Samuels but allowed him to steer West Indies in the right direction. This is the second innings in a row Samuels has now been involved in long and strong partnership that has kept West Indies alive. Twice in a row now, the visitors have not lost a wicket in an entire session. And Samuels has been the architect of that resistance.

He has already spent 631 minutes at the crease in the series and has a strong desire to cross Chanderpaul's 756 minutes. He has also announced to England that he wants the double hundred and if he gets there he will reply in earnest to all the words they gave him.

"James Anderson should know I am batting for the team. A lot of balls that could've been hit for the boundary I left them alone. But when I get a double tomorrow, I would like James Anderson to say something to me," he said afterwards with a big smile, as the England Player of the Year stood in the background.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    So Samuels misses out on a double hundred, in fact he was either exaggerating or being unrealistic about his ambitions, better luck next time. He at least achieved a double hundred partnership of 204 with Sammy. He either meant getting 200 on his own or the 200 in partnership with Sammy, he's achieved one. Great fightback by the WI.

  • Derek on May 26, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    Those who understand know clearly what the WI problem is; since the retirement of Grennidge, Haynes, Richards, Richardson the WI top order has been brittle. Gayle stand out amongst the new players batting between 1-3. This will persist until the promise in Powell and Darren Bravo matures. I also think Charles has promise but injury prone Barath needs a long run on a A tour. Edwards, Brathwaite and all other brought in because of the island they are from is the wrong way to go. Inexperience with promise needs to be brought in at the top with Gayle while Shiv and Samuels stay where they are. When Shiv retires Darren moves down etc. It makes no sense hiding the inexperienced; the must face challenges and adapt quickly if the hope to compete at the highest level. In the bowling department Tino is a regressive step. The WI test level players need more international exposure in all formats. The IPL is serving as a great pull for our youth, retaining and nurturing them is the challenge.

  • Randolph on May 26, 2012, 7:31 GMT

    Was lucky to get a spot in the first place but definitely earning it now. Well done marlon.

  • Ian on May 26, 2012, 6:49 GMT

    The way they play the game, and the way they never let their spirit flag, even the most loyal English fan wouldn't begrudge Samuels and Sammy their success. Keep going, Windies - the world wants you to succeed!!

  • Lokesh on May 26, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    Congratulations Marlon Samuels, you played a great innings. What made it more great was the position of your team when came out to bat. What made a master-class hundred because your team was under master-class pressure.

  • John on May 26, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    You definitely have to admire Samuel's application. Lots of people have been saying for a while that WI have got enough talent to compete with the top teams but lack the consistency. Samuels at least is showing how that consistency can be achieved. He has shown great powers of concentration and subdued his attacking instincts when it is required by the team. KP may say that the fans don't want to see people blocking the ball but I'm sure that WI fans are happy to see Samuels play an uncharacteristically defensive innings if it means his team may win the game.

  • Natalie on May 26, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    I have to admit that I am so happy with the success of the lone jamaican on the West Indies team.. We won the local 4 day tournament thoroughly thrashing every other Caribbean team ( not one draw) against these very same players on the WI team including Shiv, Sammy etc.and were snubbed by the selectors except for Marlon. I was concerned as Marlon is not very focused but he has proved me wrong. I am still not convinced that Jamaica should not leave the WI team after the treatment of Gayle, Nash , Russell Taylor etc but I congratulate the conglomerate of Sammy and Sammy Inc.and I continue to watch.

  • Luke on May 26, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    So glad to see someone other than Shiv anchor the innings. I fear that Sammy may fall at any moment though! Come on West Indies; 400 plus awaits

  • Rohan on May 26, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    Great job by Marlon! Hope he can push on from strength to strength. This WI team has HUGE potential (if they can address Gayle and the off the field issues). As a big supporter of India, I cannot believe that our famed batting line-up could reach 300 just once - that too in an inconsequential innings and were resoundingly beaten. I hope that our miserable time last year (after the World Cup) was just a one off. Good fun watching Chanders and the rest put up a great show in England. Go WINDIES!

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 0:34 GMT

    A double hundred, with only Sammy and the tail left? Sounds quite ambitious and positive, where was he during the Australian series? IPL! Maybe Samuels should quit IPL and commit to WI instead. It would've been a much closer contest had Samuels played against Australia.

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