Port Elizabeth: Marlon Samuels and captain Chris Gayle played contrasting innings as the West Indies belied their underdog status on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at St George's Park Wednesday.
Gayle hit an explosive 66 and Samuels a watchful 94 as the West Indies reached 281 for four at the close after being sent in to bat on what proved to be an easy-paced pitch.
"They have written off us," Samuels said of critics who predicted that South Africa would dominate the three-Test series.
"But we are a bunch of talented guys. We've come out here to play some hard cricket and give South Africa a good challenge."
Opening batsman Gayle hammered his runs off 49 balls in his first innings since injuring his right hamstring against Zimbabwe 26 days ago.
Mainly through Gayle, who was a doubtful starter until declaring himself fit shortly before the start, the West Indies raced to 130 for two at lunch but the scoring rate slowed during the afternoon as the South Africans opted for containment and the tourists dug in.
Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were particularly careful as they eked out a 50-run partnership off a slow 163 balls. But the rate picked up and they made the stand worth 100 off only another 58 balls.
Samuels seemed set for only the second century of a 25-Test career as he moved imperiously from 67 to 92 in nine balls, with three fours each off Andre Nel and left-arm spinner Paul Harris.
With his side struggling to make a breakthrough, Nel changed his action and ran in with his arm held high, then exchanged words with Samuels.
But it backfired.
"Nel is a very great personality off the field but on the field he is a warrior," said Samuels with a laugh.
"But I'm a warrior as well and it needed a few words from him to hype me up even more."
But the second new ball was Samuels' undoing as he launched an extravagant drive against Dale Steyn's fifth ball and Jacques Kallis leapt to his right at second slip to hold a spectacular catch.
It was consolation for Steyn, who twice thought he had dismissed Samuels, who was caught off a no-ball by Graeme Smith at first slip when he had 14.
Samuels did not initially hear the call from umpire Aleem Dar and started walking towards the pavilion. Six runs later the ball looped off his right glove to AB de Villiers, also at first slip, but he had taken his right hand off the bat.
Samuels batted for 267 minutes, faced 195 balls and hit 12 fours.
The batsman, who said the West Indies would also have chosen to bowl if they had won the toss, said his team had met their goals for the day following Gayle's 98-run opening stand with Daren Ganga.
"We caught them on the back foot," said Samuels. "South Africa probably expected a few quick wickets but it didn't happen. Chris really set the platform for us."
South Africa coach Mickey Arthur admitted that his team had bowled poorly before lunch but said they were still strongly in contention.
"A score of around 350 or 370 is par on this wicket. We've got the new ball and the opportunity tomorrow. But what we do know now is that we are in a Test match."
Arthur said South Africa had expected more help from the pitch following rain in the days leading up to the match.
It was a disappointing day for South Africa's new ball bowlers. Steyn, who took 20 wickets in two Tests against New Zealand last month, had figures of one for 82 from 20 overs while Makhaya Ntini took one for 76 in 18 overs.