Discipline is not a word you would normally associate with Marlon Samuels.
Disciplined, perhaps. But discipline not so much.
Samuels has enjoyed a colourful career. He has been banned for receiving money from bookmakers, banned from bowling his quicker ball, threatened with being sent home from a tour and fallen out with so many players on the pitch – most memorably when he threw his bat after a disagreement with Shane Warne – that you sometimes wonder if he argues with the moon and shakes his fist at the sun.
His talent has never been doubted. From the moment, as a teenager, he made his Test debut, much has been expected of him. But an average in the mid-30s reflects a talent unfulfilled and as recently as Antigua, he let his side down in the second innings when, required to bat all day, he departed to a loose and quite unnecessary stroke.
He made amends here. In demanding conditions, against an attack attempting to lure him into a similar error of judgement, he summoned all his patience and all his discipline to defy England and provide a foothold in the match for his side.
It took him 21 balls to get off the mark. After 37 balls, he had only two scoring strokes: an edged four and a pushed single. And it took him 50 balls to reach double figures.
But that didn’t matter. For Samuels knew that, as the pitch eased and the ball softened, batting would become easier. He knew his chance would come.
So, in the last hour of the day, having earned the opportunity to face tired bowlers, he took five boundaries in 13 balls from the seamers before hitting another four in 13 deliveries from Moeen Ali’s off-spin.
“When I make a mistake, I try not to make the same mistake,” he said afterwards as he reflected on his error in Antigua.
“Today was a day that I had to keep my head down and bat for the team. I had to leave a lot of balls and be patient.
“We have been losing games in three or four days. We bring this game into five days and we could have got a result both ways. Once we start bringing games into five days then we can start winning from there.”
England, though, will rue a day of missed opportunity. While the scoreboard may look as if they were tight and disciplined with the ball – and, in the main, the seamers were – they may reflect that, with conditions at their most helpful, they missed their chance.
Not a single ball in Stuart Broad’s five-over opening spell would have hit the stumps. While he gained, at times, impressive bounce and carry, such qualities are of limited use if the batsman is not obliged to play. It was a waste of the new ball.
James Anderson was only marginally better. While he produced one beauty – an inswinger of museum quality – to account for Kraigg Brathwaite – it was one of only three balls in his seven-over opening spell that would have hit the stumps.
Anderson was tight and disciplined and skilful, certainly, but he was rarely dangerous and, having put the opposition in – England would have been hoping for more.
Perhaps too much is asked of Anderson and Broad. Coming just three days after the Antigua Test – where the pair were in the field for 130 overs in the fourth innings – they might be understandably heavy-legged. Anderson’s first few deliveries were timed at around 76mph, while Broad’s average speed was, at 81.5mph, the slowest of the four main seamers.
While Chris Jordan – timed at 89.7mph and gaining swing all day – and Ben Stokes, who reached 91.3 mph, were disciplined and impressive, they only came on when conditions had eased. By then England’s tactics had to be more attritional. Their best hope of utilising the tacky pitch, the new ball and the overcast conditions had gone.
Moeen Ali, clearly rusty, also endured a tough day. While James Tredwell was cut or pulled to the boundary only once in his 26 first-innings overs in Antigua, Moeen was cut or pulled for four boundaries in 12 overs here. Tredwell may well have performed the holding role required rather better.
All things considered, England might think themselves fortunate to be the beneficiaries of some poor West Indies batting. Devon Smith reached for a wide one – replays suggested he did not touch it and should have called for a review – Darren Bravo followed one he could have left and Shivnarine Chanderpaul steered to point. All will know they were the architects of their own downfall.
Had Alastair Cook, at slip, accepted a simple chance offered by Samuels off Jordan on 32, England might have gone completely unpunished for their modest new ball performance.
But their failings – and Samuels’ excellence – may yet come back to haunt them. The downside of giving your bowlers first use of such a surface is that your batsman could well find themselves batting on it last. If the indentations made on the damp pitch harden and are not flattened by the heavy roller, that may yet prove tricky.