Samuels comes a full circle

Brain Lara and Marlon Samuels played crucial knocks for West Indies.-AP

Samuels compiled a brilliant 98 at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, an innings of restrained aggression that overshadowed Robin Uthappa's coruscating 70 off 41 balls. He came in at number four and shared a stand of 127 with Lara. Vijay Parthasarathy reports.

Brian Lara stressed the need to cultivate more match winners after his side managed to arrest the Indians' momentum in the one-day series, with a somewhat unconvincing three-wicket win in Chennai. Lara pointed out during the press conference that practically anyone in the current Australian side could swing a contest, and that the West Indies tended to rely too heavily on Sarwan, Chanderpaul and himself. How it performs in the World Cup could depend on whether players like Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo play to their potential.

Samuels compiled a brilliant 98 at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, an innings of restrained aggression that overshadowed Robin Uthappa's coruscating 70 off 41 balls. The Jamaican has come a full circle since that blistering century against India, four years ago. The right-hander's career has meandered along since — injuries and lack of form conspired to keep him out of the side now and then — but on that Saturday he was authoritative against pacers and spinners alike.

He came in at number four and shared a stand of 127 with Lara, and although neither batsman lasted till the end and three wickets fell for eight runs, their efforts were just enough to propel West Indies past the finish line.

The Indian bowlers weren't defending much, but they didn't help matters by spraying. Sreesanth, who bowled 11 wides, increasingly looks unsuited to the shorter format.

The situation was entirely different 30 overs into the Indian innings, with Tendulkar and Dravid in complete command: indeed, it seemed as if the home team would notch up its first ever score in excess of 400. On this ideal batting track, Uthappa was imperious while driving on the up; he punched repeatedly through the line and square cut even more ferociously. Uthappa reached his fifty with a six, an uncomplicated pull off debutant Rayad Emrit; he was finally dismissed after Chris Gayle was brought on.

The 21-year-old Karnataka lad, who has enjoyed much success at the Ranji level this season, ought to have converted this knock into a century by batting sensibly after his initial display of belligerence, but couldn't resist the temptation to hammer the part-time off-spinner. He will have gained some confidence with this knock, however; a couple of similar performances and he could sneak into the World Cup squad.

If India lost its way from 232 for three, the blame lies partly with the settled pair, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, although to be fair both perished in trying to up the scoring rate and couldn't have anticipated the collapse. "Losing seven wickets for 36 runs on a flat wicket is not acceptable," Dravid said afterwards, while admitting, "but one of the seniors — Sachin or I — should have carried on and stayed till the end." Tendulkar and Dravid came together at the fall of Suresh Raina's wicket. Raina, the free-stroking left-hander, was finding it difficult to pierce the gaps and his timing was a bit off as well, and this innings might have damaged his World Cup prospects. Captain and vice-captain rotated strike and forced the odd boundary, while scoring at nearly a run a ball. Dravid found long on soon after he had completed his half-century. Lara kept mid-on up for Tendulkar and was immediately rewarded. From then on, India kept sliding.

Robin Uthappa's blitzkrieg was the highlight of the Indian innings.-V. GANESAN

Yuvraj Singh's comeback from injury proved a bit of a failure, he was unable to spend much time at the crease. Wickets fell and the run rate plummeted to less than six. On this pitch, 268 was never going to be enough.

Lara singled out Samuels for praise later. "I don't know whether Samuels has turned a corner, but he is becoming more consistent," Lara said. "We need to concentrate on building a lot more match-winners. Everyone in the Australian side is a match-winner. We need more than just the likes of Chanderpaul, Sarwan or me."

THE SCORES

Third ODI, Chennai, January 27, 2007. West Indies won by three wickets.

India: R. Uthappa c Simmons b Gayle 70; G. Gambhir c Simmons b Powell 0; S. Raina c Lara b Taylor 23; S. Tendulkar c Morton b Bravo 60; R. Dravid c Emrit b Gayle 57; Yuvraj Singh c & b Bravo 10; D. Karthik c Ramdin b Bravo 8; A. Agarkar c Morton b Samuels 2; R. Powar c & b Taylor 5; A. Kumble (not out) 3; S. Sreesanth c Morton b Bravo 1; Extras (lb-14, w-13, nb-2) 29. Total (in 48 overs) 268.

Fall of wkts: 1-7, 2-95, 3-126, 4-232, 5-237, 6-255, 7-255, 8-259, 9-265.

West Indies bowling: Taylor 8-0-45-2; Powell 6-1-38-1; Emrit 5-0-34-0;Bravo 9-0-39-4; Gayle 10-0-57-2;Samuels 10-0-41-1.

West Indies: C. Gayle lbw b Agarkar 0; D. S. Smith c Dravid b Kumble 33; R. Morton c Karthik b Agarkar 1; M. Samuels c Karthik b Agarkar 98; B. Lara c Uthappa b Powar 83; L. Simmons c Uthappa b Powar 17; D. Bravo c Raina b Sreesanth 4; D. Ramdin (not out) 4; R. Emrit (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-25) 30. Total (for seven wkts in 43.4 overs) 270.

Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-27, 3-92, 4-219, 5-257, 6-261, 7-265.

India bowling: Agarkar 10-1-45-3; Sreesanth 8.4-0-67-1; Kumble 10-0-67-1; Powar 10-0-53-2; Tendulkar 5-0-33-0.