Cricket: England v West Indies

Performance of the Day: Marlon Samuels

Samuels' grit was typical of a team showing more resolve under captain Darren Sammy

Performance of the Day: Marlon Samuels

At the age of 31, West Indies' batsman Marlon Samuels is an unfulfilled talent, averaging just a shade over 30 in a 12-year Test career. But his innings of 86 in a partnership of 157 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul showed signs of growing maturity and built a platform for the West Indies to claw their way back into the game.

When Samuels first played for West Indies in 2000, he was an over-hyped prospect. He was compared with Sir Vivian Richards and aficionados of Caribbean cricket heralded the next great player. No one could live up to that advanced billing, and in the 28th match of a career in which he has missed far more matches than he has played, he remains an enigmatic performer.

There have been only two hundreds to set alongside 13 fifties, which is the sort of conversion rate that plagued Andrew Strauss until this game.

In his defence, Samuels has played in an era of West Indian instability. Captains have come and gone and there has been friction with the West Indies’ Cricket Board. Samuels himself has had problems with discipline and received a two-year ban for betting on matches.

Cricketers are judged on individual performances, but they play their best in positive team environments. It’s tempting to speculate that another unfulfilled talent, Mark Ramprakash, would have scored heavily under the current England set-up, which nourishes talent and gives it time to express itself.

Tihis current West Indies’ side is at last beginning to acquire some of the resolve which characterises England. Much of the change in mindset can be put down to the leadership of the current captain Darren Sammy. Gradually, over two years at the helm, he has stiffened sinews and the team ethic now takes presence over individual egos.

We saw this grit in the second innings. Even after the top scorers, Chanderpaul and Samuels, departed, there were determined contributions from Ramdin (43) and Sammy (37). And then the West Indies’ tail wagged, a sign that a side is refusing to fold against a superior opponent.

We know all about Chanderpaul’s qualities. He has batted for 10 and three quarter hours in the match for 178 runs. But Samuels has not always shown the discipline evident in this innings.

For long periods, he was becalmed. It was as though the introspective batting of Chanderpaul lulled him into the same coma it had large parts of the crowd. He took no risks and was content to accumulate. Only 16 runs came off his first 50 balls.

But, later in his innings, when he had made 37, Samuels was woken from his slumber after Broad dug in a bumper which struck him on the shoulder. The indignity was followed by another bouncer that he fended off to the gully region.

Enough was enough. Two more short balls in the same Broad over were pulled strongly for boundaries, the second a thunderous shot and a powerful statement. Few cricketers can play in a bubble like Chanderpaul, or Trott, for hour after hour and Samuels’ mood had changed.

In the following over, he drove Anderson to the cover fence for four to reach 50, then a short time later, he set about attacking the offspin of Swann.

The use of his nimble feet against Swann was the most impressive part of his innings. Twice in one over he rocked back and cut deftly for fours. Later, he skipped down the pitch twice in one over to drive boundaries through the offside.

Samuels played an important innings, but it ended too soon. As so often in his checkered career, he failed to make a hundred, nicking a full swinging ball from Broad. That poor conversion rate of two hundreds/13 fifties needs to change if Samuels is to fulfil his potential at this late stage in his career.