“I can take a lot from the innings, unfortunately, I couldn't carry on. I know that I'm good enough to play at this level so it's just about staying patient and being positive in the middle. It is just about backing my ability and doing what I need to do in the middle and the runs would come.”
Shai Hope had stated after the fourth day of the Bridgetown Test against Pakistan back in May this year. West Indies went on to win that game courtesy a sizzling spell from Shannon Gabriel on Day 5 and the whole limelight rested on the seamer. Hope had made a career-saving, match-saving 90 off 209 balls against the guile of Yasir Shah on the fourth day of that Test. He had not only brought West Indies back into a game they had seemingly lost, but also gave them a decisive lead which proved enough for Gabriel to wreck havoc on the final day.
That innings was quite quintessential for Hope whose career was on the precipice up until that point. In eight Tests till then he had averaged less than 15 but as he later stated, this knock made him realise that he was “good enough to play at this level".
The 10 runs which would have given Hope a maiden Test ton was missed at Bridgetown, and it haunted him. When an opportunity arose at Headingly, in the second Test of the series against England, to put behind that regret forever, he grabbed it both hands. Alongside Kraigg Brathwaite, the only current player in the Windies line-up to have 2000+ Test runs, Hope put on a 246 run partnership for the fourth wicket that all but confirmed West Indies’ resurgence in England.
Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel had put up a spirited show with the ball on Day 1 to restrict England to 258 but West Indies still needed their batsmen to carry forward the good work of their bowlers. At 35/3 and Anderson breathing fire, the possibilities for West Indies sneaking through a lead looked bleak.
But that did not deter Brathwaite and Hope. The duo combined crisp stroke-making with sound defences to help West Indies out of the rut. In the initial stage of their partnership, the two smashed atleast one boundary off every over for eight consecutive overs.
The positive intent not only helped West Indies keep the scoreboard ticking, but also disrupted the rhythm of the England bowlers. The length of the bowlers, in particular, took a beating. Much of West Indies’ success with the ball had come because they respected the 'Headingly length’, which is pretty full (6-7 meters from the batsman’s stumps according to CricViz). England, on the other hand, bowled rather short right through the day and Brathwaite and Hope just cashed in.
While the opener relied on his technique of playing the ball as late as possible on the backfoot, Hope attacked more on the front foot. 77% of Brathwaite’s runs came off the backfoot while Hope had 59% of his runs coming off the front foot.
Perhaps this telling difference in scoring mannerisms also affected England's consistency with line and length. On way too many occasions, the bowlers were either too short or wide. As the afternoon sun settled in, Brathwaite and Hope had already laid down a solid platform, negating some of the best swing bowlers in the World in bowler-friendly conditions.
Moeen Ali came close when he had Brathwaite trapped in front and the on-field umpire upheld his appeal. But the opener overturned the call with a well-judged review and then launched Ali over the mid-wicket fence next ball to bring up his half-century.
By the time Brathwaite nudged and drove his way to the 90s, Hope had gone past his half-century and the partnership, which had crossed 150, was starting to create headaches for Joe Root.
Brathwaite completed his sixth Test hundred and first in England in an almost identical fashion to how he had reached his half-century - slogging the spinner (Tom Westley, this time) over wide long-on. Hope, meanwhile, was matching Brathwaite shot for shot and walked off for tea with 85 to his name.
He completed formalities soon after tea, getting to a maiden Test hundred with a nudge through fine-leg off Stokes. With both batsmen completing their respective hundreds and West Indies firmly in the driving seat, England had quite a few problems to sort out. The partnership, which had started out as an attempt to rebuild the innings from a rubble, had crossed 200. It was the first 200+ stand for West Indies since Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Denesh Ramdin put on 200 at Hamilton against New Zealand in 2013.
West Indies had managed totals of less than 200 in six of their last seven completed innings at Headingly. Now, they had 200+ from one pair. When Broad finally brought an end to the defiant stand by cleaning up Brathwaite for 134, the duo had put on 246 for the fourth wicket in 68 overs. Neither of West Indies’ innings at Edgbaston had lasted more than 50 overs.
The 246 run stand was also the highest for West Indies in England since Gordon Greenidge and Larry Gomes put on 287 for the second wicket at Lord's in 1984.
Although the visitors did lose Roston Chase, their firefighter in recent times, towards the fag end of the day, Hope remained unbeaten on 147. He had Jermaine Blackwood, carrying on from where he left off at Edgbaston, for company as umpires called stumps on Day 2.
The scorecard at the end of the day would show that the Windies lead by 71 runs with five wickets remaining. But they have squandered such advantages quite often in the recent past. This West Indian line-up has been rather inconsistent as their 19-wicket day at Edgbaston last week proved. They do not want a similar debacle here given that they hold all aces going into the third day of the Test. And all their hope rest on Shai Hope.
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