HARARE, Zimbabwe – Veteran stroke-maker Marlon Samuels said Monday he was no stranger to pressure, after guiding West Indies to their fifth highest successful run chase to beat Zimbabwe by four wickets, in a crucial second stage match of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers.
The 37-year-old top-scored with a typically audacious 86 from 80 deliveries as the Windies, facing a difficult target of 289, completed a dramatic run chase with an over to spare at Harare Sports Club.
Samuels, who entered the game with the Windies on 110 for two in the 22nd over, said he had been unfazed by the tense situation of the game.
“It’s a full stadium, pressure situation – I kind of relish those situations and the mind was just right today. We know what’s at stake and I know I had to come up with the trump card today,” said the Jamaican, the hero of successive Twenty20 World Cup finals in 2012 and 2016.
“I’ve been in the [same] situation many times and pulled it off so it’s the same mindset. I don’t really focus on the noise around me.
“I keep watching the scoreboard and trying to tick it over as much as possible and play the situation and try to stay ahead of the game.”
Samuels, who struck six fours and four commanding sixes, was supported by Shai Hope who stroked a polished 76 and aggressive opener Evin Lewis who carved out 64.
However, it was in partnership with Hope that Samuels shone, adding 135 for the third wicket, to put West Indies in sight of victory.
Samuels said the partnership had been a fulfilling one, not only because of its value to the innings but also because he enjoyed watching the 24-year-old Hope.
“He is one of my favourite batsmen so he’s definitely one for the future that we should look out for. He has a lot of special knocks to come,” Samuels noted.
“It’s easy to bat with him because he’s a guy that listens to me, and we were just having a coversation in the middle that we were having off the field, so it’s much better in the situation that we could talk and actually make it happen.”
West Indies almost made a hash of the run chase, however. After being well-positioned on 245 for two in the 44th over, Samuels’ dismissal – caught behind off 21-year-old speedster Blessing Muzarabani – triggered a collapse which saw four wicket tumble for 20 runs.
Rovman Powell (15 not out) and Ashley Nurse (8 not out) eventually saw the Windies home but Samuels said he believed he had let his side down by getting out when he did.
“I wasn’t happy because I actually left it up to the rest of my teammates which I didn’t want to … so I was pretty upset,” he lamented.
“I was even still in my pads but the end of the day, we crossed the line. It’s just for us to play as a unit and continue to move from strength to strength.”
West Indies take on Scotland on Wednesday in another must-win match, with the winner securing one of the two berths at next year’s World Cup in England.
And Samuels said the Caribbean side would take the same approach to the fixture as they had throughout the tournament.
“It’s the same attitude we came in with – taking nobody for granted and coming and playing a new brand of cricket that we want to play, whether we bat first or bat last,” he explained.
“We didn’t bowl well today but we have to put that behind us. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and focus on where we went wrong and move from strength to strength.” – CMC