Marlon Samuels picks the length early and plays the ball late. Little wonder then that this smooth-stroker gives himself more time to play the ball. He batted with soft hands and sure touch.
The moody right-hander also applied himself on the third day of the second Digicel Test between India and the West Indies at Kensington Oval, here, on Thursday. His unbeaten 78 was as much about ability as resolve.
His was a lone hand though. The West Indies, replying to India’s 201, was dismissed for 190. If Samuels was the cynosure with the willow, Ishant Sharma bowled with heart and skill to scalp six.
When the lanky paceman nailed Darren Sammy with a delivery slanted into the right-hander for his fourth scalp of the innings, he had reached the 100-wicket mark in Tests.
This is the 22-year-old seamer’s 33rd Test. Despite a couple of worrying phases, he has regained self-belief and evolved. In this Test, he has been bowling with controlled aggression and incision.
Ishant fired out Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards with his short-pitched stuff although the latter was at the receiving end of a debatable decision.
There was some bounce and lateral movement for the pacemen, but batting was much easier than in the first Test at Sabina Park where a surface of inconsistent bounce hampered stroke-play.
The talented Samuels batted with an amalgam of flair and solidity. He glanced Praveen Kumar to the fence and then used the depth of the crease to cut Harbhajan Singh past the ropes.
The contest between Samuels and an impressive Ishant Sharma was engrossing. The lanky paceman beat the West Indian with an off-cutter, but the ball was missing leg. Samuels stroked Ishant pleasingly through covers and then slashed him past the fence.
Ishant responded with a mean leg-cutter that beat the batsman without finding the edge. Then he pegged back Samuels with his short-pitched bowling.
Someone who relies more on timing, there were occasions when Samuels played away from the body to deliveries leaving him. He survived though.
After the afternoon break, Samuels caressed Harbhajan Singh off the front-foot. Then he forced Ishant, square of the wicket, off his back-foot.
Paceman Abhimanyu Mithun struck a crucial blow for India in the first session to send back a battling Shivnarine Chanderpaul (37) and end a defiant 77-run sixth-wicket partnership between the experienced left-hander and Samuels.
With his two-eyed stance, the left-handed Chanderpaul had a clear look at deliveries on or outside the off-stump. The were occasions when he appeared beaten, but the southpaw was actually dropping his wrists and taking his bat away from the line at the last moment.
Chanderpaul is an old-fashioned batsman who does not jab hard at the ball unlike some of the younger present-day batsmen.
The old-warrior may appear ungainly at the crease, but is a intelligent accumulator of runs. On view were the typical nudges and pushes from the southpaw. On the one occasion he launched into a well-directed short-pitched delivery from Ishant, he top-edged for a boundary. It was tense, hard cricket.
Chanderpaul coped with Harbhajan’s off-spin by either stretching out or travelling back and using the depth of the crease. Harbhajan, however, beat Chanderpaul once by switching to round the wicket and spinning the ball across the left-hander.
For someone with innings-building skills, Chanderpaul lost his wicket to an error of judgment. He attempted to pull a short-pitched delivery from Mithun and ended up playing on. A measure of credit is due to the bowler as well since he changed the angle by switching to round the wicket.
The tactic, perhaps, cramped Chanderpaul for room. Mithun, an eager beaver, is a capable bowler to the left-handers. Harbhajan operated with better rhythm. He removed Carlton Baugh with a beautifully flighted delivery outside the off-stump that straightened a tad. Lured into a drive, Baugh was spectacularly held by a diving Dravid at slip.
Sammy was put down on 13 at short-cover by Raina — Praveen Kumar was the bowler to suffer — but did not last long. Dhoni, rightly, employed attacking fields for most part. The Indians, who fought back, were rewarded. Hindu