Thursday, April 18, 2024

Samuels shines


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Marlon Samuels is back with a bang. But it is with the ball and not the bat just yet.
The part-time off-spinner was the West Indies’ unlikely bowling hero, gaining a career-best four-wicket haul to send Zimbabwe tumbling to 211 all out in 76.4 overs on the opening day of the first cricket Test at Kensington Oval yesterday.
The Zimbabweans, however, hit back at stumps, reducing the West Indies to 18 for two with opener Kieran Powell (five) and night watchman Kemar Roach (0) falling leg before wicket to pacer Kyle Jarvis off consecutive balls.
Powell’s referral was in vain while Roach didn’t need one, even though when he was trapped in front it was the seventh ball of the over.
Crowd favourite Chris Gayle remained not out on 11 alongside Darren Bravo, giving the estimated 3 000 spectators, including scores of schoolchildren, something to cheer about with two classy, consecutive cover drives off rookie pacer Tendai Chatara.  
Earlier, Samuels, who had a bumper 2012 with the bat, scoring two hundreds as well as a career-best 260 while amassing 866 runs in just seven Tests, showed that he has a golden arm.
He struck with his very first delivery, bowling Craig Ervine for 29, and returned to take three of the last four Zimbabwe wickets, which fell for a mere 15 runs, to end with Test-best figures of four for 13 in 6.4 overs.
Frontline off-spinner Shane Shillingford also marked his recall to the Test side with three for 58 in 22 overs, including the scalp of opener Tino Mawoyo, who topscored with an even 50, fashioned by seven fours off 95 balls in 134 minutes at the crease.
Samuels missed the preceding Twenty20 and One-Day Internationals while recuperating from an eye injury after he was struck by Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga in the Australian Big Bash. His  first intervention in the Kensington Oval match was with a superb, low, left-handed catch in the gully to remove Hamilton Masakadza for 17.
That gave pacer Roach the second of his two wickets in the pre-lunch session during which Zimbabwe endured a testing time, coping with the pace, swing and bounce of Tino Best and himself as the two Bajans shared the new ball for the first time in a Test on home soil.
Best was unlucky when Bravo dropped opener Vusi Sibanda at third slip in his second over. But the chance wasn’t costly as Roach castled Sibanda for 12 in the day’s seventh over to leave Zimbabwe on 19 for one.
A fired-up Best struck new batsman Masakadza on the helmet with the final ball of his fifth over when the batsman ducked into a short delivery but was surprisingly pulled from the attack.
Captain Darren Sammy replaced Best but was ineffective in a teasing seven-over spell of medium pace from the Malcolm Marshall End in tandem with the pacy Shannon Gabriel.
Masakadza added 40 with Mawoyo for the second wicket before Samuels’ brilliance resulted in Roach making the breakthrough with the third ball of his second spell as Masakadza failed to keep down a lifting delivery.     
The stocky Mawoyo, who made a career-best 163 not out in only his second Test against Pakistan, was joined by his captain Brendan Taylor and they took the score to an encouraging 91 for two at lunch. But the visitors’ demise started in the post-lunch session as at least six batsmen failed to carry on after spending more than an hour at the crease.
Shillingford, back in the Test team at the expense of Sunil Narine, had Mawoyo caught at short leg by Powell while Gabriel uprooted Taylor’s off-stump with a delivery which swung away from the batsman late.
Taylor made 26 and his departure left Zimbabwe on 110 for four. Shillingford also trapped Malcolm Waller leg before wicket for nine as he came inside his wicket to sweep. Initially, it seemed the West Indies thought he had gotten an inside edge onto his pads when Sammy claimed the catch at leg slip. Waller requested a referral and Sri Lankan umpire Ranmore Martinez confirmed an lbw verdict as Zimbabwe slumped to 135 for five.  
Shillingford was unlucky not to take another wicket as Best, at mid-off, dropped Regis Chakabwa in the penultimate over before tea.  However, Samuels found a gap between Ervine’s bat and pad to hit his middle stump with a straight delivery to leave Zimbabwe on 162 for six at the interval.
On resumption, Samuels also broke a 36-run seventh-wicket stand when Graeme Cremer, who made 25 off 52 balls in 69 minutes, cut an off-break into Bravo’s hands at point.
Shillingford removed the obdurate Chakabwa, who occupied the crease for 92 balls and 110 minutes while scoring just 15, compliments a sharp, short-leg catch by Powell.

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