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Samuels, the anchor man, says nail-biter will stand West Indies in good stead

du Plessis bemoans South Africa being 'half a step behind' West Indies.

26 March 2016 17:59

At the innings break in their match against South Africa, the West Indians might have had a spring in their steps. After all, they had just restricted what many considered their toughest opponents in Group 1 of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 to 122 for 8, and their deep batting was favoured to chase that down at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur on Friday (March 25).

However, it eventually needed every bit of the considerable resources West Indies have at their disposal to pull off the chase, with the last recognised pair of Carlos Brathwaite and Denesh Ramdin at the crease to knock off the nine runs required in the final over for a three-wicket win. The man who had brought West Indies to the doorstep was Marlon Samuels, whose uncharacteristic 43 off 44 was not the normal free-flowing batting that both he and the other West Indian batsmen are famous for, but a more gritty, hang-in-there effort.

Samuels could have been out for 31 had Imran Tahir held on to a fairly simple return catch. He had his share of luck too, when edges flew for fours in the penultimate over to simplify the equation for West Indies. But he had batted through the tough periods, and was there at the end to capitalise on the luck that came his way.

West Indies are already through to their third straight World T20 semifinal and, with only a match against Afghanistan remaining, they look primed to get into the last four undefeated. Samuels said that the nature of the win against South Africa would help the team for battles ahead.

“This is how the game goes,” he reflected. “On a day like today, on a slow track, it was always going to be a nail-biter, a close game. But that shows that we are good at keeping our nerve and bringing it home. You never know, we might end up in a similar situation again. So it’s good that we can carry home games under pressure as well. Even if South Africa made (only) a 100 today, you are playing against a very good team in all formats. In Tests, ODIs and T20s. You can’t take them for granted. They have experienced bowlers and very good cricketers. So we had to go there and approach it like it was a final.”

Samuels is one of the few in the power-hitting batting line-up who can perform the other role of holding one end down and grinding it out. “This batting line-up, I have two roles,” he said. “One, where the openers get a good start, I go out there and express myself. And if we get a slow start and [lose] early wickets, I will go there and try to build an innings with whichever partner you are playing with, build something and bring the game as far as possible.

“The pitch was gripping a bit. It was on the slower side. You needed to play as late as possible. We still have batsmen that love to play shots. Then there are those who can consolidate, push it around and bring it as close as possible. It was a low-scoring track, but nevertheless we held our nerve and came out on top.

“If you see the first game against England, we got a good start, so I could always go out there and express myself, so I played shots (he made 37 off 27) and the game I like to play. Today, the wicket was on the slower side, and we lost early wickets. So it called for me to change my game to try and bat right down till the end to bring the team to another victory for the entire Caribbean.”

While the entire Caribbean was celebrating, the whole of South Africa will find themselves cheering for a Sri Lanka victory over England at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi on Saturday. South Africa’s Net Run Rate is still far above both England and Sri Lanka, and if the Sri Lankans beat England and lose to South Africa, it would leave all three teams tied on four points – the only route left for South Africa to progress.

“It’s very sad, you know, myself and we as a team, we pride ourselves on trying to win games of cricket, and as I’ve said to you before, we’re not playing close to how good we are or can be, and that’s frustrating,” admitted Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, after the defeat. “We want to be better, and unfortunately we’re not producing the goods on the day.

“As I said, you need a bit of luck but also you make your own luck, and I feel if you win those small moments in the game, generally the luck goes your way, and that’s why it didn’t go our way tonight, because we were just half a step behind West Indies all the time. But they’re playing great cricket and that’s why it’s going for them. They’re a confident team and things will fall their way, because you almost earn that luck, and they deserve it. So [I’m] disappointed, because I had strong hopes of winning the tournament, and now we’re hoping for other performances to go our way, so we’ll obviously be rooting for some opposition to try and do us a favour, but if it doesn’t happen like that, there’s no excuses.

“I’ll be very, very disappointed (if England win). As I said, we came here as a team expecting to win this tournament. So for now, I’m just hoping the results will go our way. I know Sri Lanka can beat England definitely and I know we can beat Sri Lanka, so hoping that someone looks after us.”

The South Africans will need fate to look after them, but as du Plessis pointed out, the West Indians were masters of their own fate.