When a player has scored only three Test centuries in 12 years of international cricket, he is entitled to enjoy his moment in the spotlight, and Marlon Samuels was not about to waste his.
The Jamaican's unbeaten 107 dragged West Indies from a position of considerable peril – they were 136 for 6 at one stage – to one of some strength. Samuels was supported by a raucous 88 not out from the captain, Darren Sammy, to take the tourists to 304 for 6 at the close yesterday.
Samuels endured the full verbal treatment from a frustrated Jimmy Anderson, who risked a punishment from the match referee, Roshan Mahanama, after he was spoken to by umpire Aleem Dar. The words did little to shake the self-belief of the phlegmatic Samuels, who has already planned his response.
"James Anderson should know that I'm batting for the team," said Samuels. "A lot of balls I could have hit to the boundary but I was playing for the team, so I left them alone. But when I get that double hundred, I would like James Anderson to say something to me. In the morning, Sir Viv Richards said I could make a double hundred here.
"He is one who gets frustrated very easily. In the last game at Lord's [where Samuel scored 86 in the second innings] he was a bit frustrated so I told him he was still my favourite bowler, and here I told him the same thing. It's all part of the game, the competition."
Laid-back off the field, Anderson is nevertheless one of the most feisty competitors in the England team and, when the home side were struggling to take a wicket with the second new ball, his anger rose to the surface on more than one occasion, although no official action had been taken an hour after the close.
It was easy to see why Anderson struggled to keep his cool as Sammy, well though he played, enjoyed plenty of good luck during the final 10 overs of the day as the ball beat the outside edge on several occasions.
Asked about the arguments, Anderson joked: "I was just telling them how well I thought they were playing. It does get frustrating at times, when you're beating the bat and there were a couple of dropped catches in the morning, and things built up through the day and they can get a little bit out of hand sometimes.
"I wasn't saying anything that bad. The umpire told me to be careful, to stop talking because if I got caught on camera I'd end up getting a punishment, so he was just warning me about it."
Samuels was banned for two years in 2008 after being found guilty of breaking rules designed to stop players betting on matches, but there are signs that he has harnessed his substantial talent. The 31-year-old cut short a stint in the Indian Premier League to link up with the squad before this series.
"I used those two years to spend quality time with my family, which is difficult to do regularly when you're a cricketer," he continued. "It makes me more determined to become a better person and a better player and I want to impress in this series."
He is now a crucial man for Sammy. The captain has been trying to engender unity in a group containing several callow players, and with his team under pressure, Sammy produced his best Test innings, a fine answer to those who doubt him. The majority of the crowd arrived hoping for memorable contributions from home players Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, yet left full of admiration for one of the most likeable men in international cricket.
Sammy must be fed up of speaking about those West Indians who are absent from this tour. This innings will not end the discussion about whether Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo should be here, but it will give optimism to those who would like to see the team grow without them.
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