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Samuels and Powell axed

Ezra Stuart

Samuels and Powell axed

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OUT-OF-SORTS batsmen Marlon Samuels and Kieran Powell have paid the price for their first Test failures.
The West Indies selectors have replaced the pair with solid Guyanese left-hander Leon Johnson and Jamaican stroke-maker Jermaine Blackwood for the second cricket Test against New Zealand in Trinidad and Tobago.
West Indies go into the Test which starts at Queen’s Park Oval tomorrow, trailing 1-0 in the three-match series after their four-day 186-run thrashing in last week’s opening Test at Sabina Park.
Blackwood, 22, followed up his tournament-high 611 runs at an average of 40.73 in this year’s regional first-class championship, with back-to-back centuries for the High Performance Centre side against the touring Bangladesh “A” team, to earn his selection.
Whereas Blackwood is relatively new to first-class cricket, averaging  40.38 in 16 matches, the 26-year-old Johnson has been around for some time and has played three One-Day Internationals. He also toured New Zealand last year with the senior side without playing a Test.
He averaged 59 in three matches for Guyana this year and had scores of 56, 42, 74 and 63 not out against the weak Bangladesh A side, but his overall first-class average of 33.18 in 50 matches with just two centuries – the last coming against the lowly Leeward Islands this season – is modest.
Samuels, 33, has gone through a lean spell after his purple patch in 2012, making just three half-centuries in his last eight Tests. However, he averages 34.68 in 52 Tests with five centuries.
Since being struck a painful blow in the face by Lasith Malinga in Australia’s Big Bash, Samuels has not reached the heady heights of his match-winning knock in the 2012 World T20 final or when he averaged 96.50 in three away Tests versus England and hit a career-best 260 against Bangladesh in Khulna that same year.
It is now left to be seen whether last week’s pair at Sabina – the third “duck” in his last four innings – marks the end of a Test career that promised so much, although style sometimes overshadowed substance.
Powell has also endured a dismal run, failing to score a half-century in his last nine Tests following centuries in both innings against Bangladesh.
With a Test average of 27.48 in 21 Tests, his place is now likely to be taken by another young opener, Barbados captain Kraigg Brathwaite, who will be looking to grab the opportunity to improve on his average of 21.84 in ten Tests.
The selectors resisted wholesale changes, as former Barbados captain Kirk Edwards and Trinidadian left-hander Darren Bravo, who also failed to deliver in the first Test, have been retained in the 14-man squad.
Both Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder have also been kept but it is still not clear whether the Windies’ will change the first Test bowling combination of two spinners in Shane Shillingford and Sulieman Benn, alongside the new ball pair of Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach.
The squad: Denesh Ramdin (captain), Sulieman Benn, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shiv Chanderpaul, Kirk Edwards, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Shane Shillingford, Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor.