Leeds: Shai Hope became a symbol of hope for the future of West Indian Test cricket after his landmark twin hundreds at Headingley steered the Caribbean side to an astonishing five-wicket victory over England on Tuesday.
Hope was amazed to hear he had become the first man to score a ton in both innings of any match in 118 years of first-class cricket at the Leeds ground but was much more concerned about what the result meant to long-suffering supporters back home.
After being widely condemned for their lame capitulation at Edgbaston in the first Test, suggesting a once-dominant team had hit rock bottom, this unlikely comeback was a stirring response.
“Really? Thanks for the news,” Hope said after being told he had become the first to score a century in both innings of a Headingley game.
“Someone had to do it, so I just put my hand up and did it for the team,” he said. “I’m just pleased to get the win.”
This was not just any win, though. It was the Windies’ first in a Test in England for 17 years.
“We’re Test cricketers for a reason. We have the fight, belief and players to do it. I hope people back home will be happy,” Hope told the BBC.
Hope, whose average of 18 over his previous 11 Tests had never reflected his potential, said he trusted the win would be a stepping stone towards a brighter future for the team.
Hope, 23, was named man-of-the-match after his unbeaten match-winning 118 followed a maiden Test ton of 147 in the first innings as Windies levelled the series at 1-1.
Along with fellow Bajan Kraigg Brathwaite’s fine batting - he added 95 to his first-innings century - and the evident reawakened spirit in the team, this was an emphatic answer to Windies greats like paceman Curtly Ambrose who had called their Edgbaston performance “pathetic”.
“After the kicking we got at Edgbaston, to get the boys back up and looking forward and then to achieve what they’ve done in the last five days was huge. I’m very proud of them,” Windies coach Stuart Law told Sky Sports.
“It’s put a lot of doubters out there to bed. It takes a lot of character to come out after the beating we got.”
Of Hope’s display, which was studded with steel as well as elegance, he added: ”I’m really proud of him. He’s been going through a form dip but, hopefully, the pretty 20s are gone and the pretty 120s are here to stay.
“It’s just a matter of belief. When he came out today he just looked in total control.”
England captain Joe Root, who bemoaned a day of dropped catches, described Hope’s knock as “exceptional”.
“It’s credit to them for the way they came back after last week,” he said.
“If we’re being honest we weren’t good enough first up with the bat and we need to make sure we learn those lessons at Lord’s.”