The West Indies were on the precipice of a heroic Test victory with just two runs needed and Chris Woakes running in to bowl at the man of the moment, Shai Hope. The ball is glanced through the vacant square leg area and races along for a boundary. But Hope isn't bothered about where the ball is heading. He had ambled along for two even before the ball had reached the boundary rope. There was no way he would give up in this game. He did not want a boundary. He wanted the two runs that would take his team to a landmark win.
"I just put my hand up," Hope later remarked nonchalantly.
Hope hadn't just raised his hand up. He battled for five hours and twenty two minutes in that outstanding second innings. A sensational 144-run stand with Kraigg Brathwaite was the backbone of West Indies' sixth successful 300-plus run chase. The 246 the very same pair put on in the first innings paled in comparison to this game-changing partnership in the second innings.
At the start of the fifth day, no one gave West Indies a chance. It was Headingly and with James Anderson or Stuart Broad steaming in from one end and Moeen Ali to rip it off from the rough at the other, this hapless West Indian unit stood no chance. After all, they had lost 19 wickets in a day just a week back.
But there was renewed hope in this refurbished West Indies squad. They had amassed a telling 169-run lead in the first innings. Two of their young guns, Brathwaite and Hope, had put on 246 runs against this very same bowling attack. They did stand a chance.
But their fielders had been shoddy and dropped chances while their bowlers gifted runs with the new ball allowing England to make 490 and declare, leaving them with 322 to win. The visitors weren't supposed to chase this down. They hadn't won in this country for 17 years.
Perhaps, if the West Indian fielders had held on to some catches, they would have been chasing less than 150. But this Test was meant to be historic and a 300-plus chase lent spice to West Indies' sweat-breaking efforts.
At 53/2 in 20 overs on day five, the crowd waited for the inevitable - a Windies collapse. Instead, they were greeted by Brathwaite and Hope.
Hope, fresh from of a sensational 147 in the first innings, looked to dominate the England bowlers while Brathwaite stood firm at the other end. Hope was on 16 off 34 balls at one stage before racing to his half-century in 70 balls knowing that the impetus West Indies needed to chase this humongous total down had to come from him.
— CricketWestIndies (@westindies) August 29, 2017
As though to stamp down his intentions, Hope hacked Ali for two fours in an over, both off back foot swivels soon after reaching his half-century. When Broad banged the ball into the surface and generated disconcerting bounce, Hope negotiated it with soft hands, taking his bottom hand off every time to ensure the slip fielders stood little chance.
A few balls before tea, Ali, brilliant with the ball in recent times, found the breakthrough when he ended the 144-run association by sending back Brathwaite for 95. But Hope wasn't done. He wanted to win this for his country. By tea on day five, he had batted out 379 balls in the Test match.
Soon after the tea break, Anderson and Broad bowled with their tails up as the pressure kept mounting on the Windies. They had come so close and to walk off with a draw from here would be so un-West Indian.
When Broad slipped one into Hope's pads and he missed, England captain Joe Root went up for the review. Replays showed that the ball was missing the leg stump by quite some distance. This review was borne out of England's desperation to get rid of this new-found nemesis in Hope.
Next over, Hope thrashed Anderson through point for four before using his soft hands to glance one through fine-leg for another boundary. Even as Roston Chase threw his wicket away and Jermaine Blackwood almost ran himself out, Hope stood firm. There was grit, resolve and determined etched on his face.
When he was on 93, England reviewed another LBW shout against him, this time off Ali. This was closer but the on-field umpire had declared 'Not Out' and umpire's call saved Hope. He didn't deserve to trudge back to the pavilion without taking the Windies over the line.
When Anderson ran in with the new ball and Blackwood smoked him straight over his head for six, Hope was on 97, not willing to sacrifice the game for a moment of glory like his partner. Even when he inside-edged Broad next over and got to that coveted hundred, there was no animated Virat Kohli-like celebration.
He raised his bat, acknowledging the applause from the crowd and returned to his bubble. There is a Caribbean flavour to his batting, yet he is so unlike the plethora of T20 cricketers that adorn the West Indian shores these days. There was continuous pressure on Root with Hope managing to score off every opportunity presented to him. He had defended 41 percent of the deliveries in the first innings but that number reduced to 30 percent the second time around, revealing his intentions to help West Indies chase this target down (stats source: @CricProf).
Can't find anyone younger than Shai Hope at 23 scoring twin hundreds in a Test in England - previously Gordon Greenidge, Old Trafford 1976
— Simon Wilde (@swildecricket) August 29, 2017
Hope became the first batsman to smack hundreds off both innings in a First Class match in Headingly. He wasn't even aware of it until Ian Ward pointed it out to him after the match. "Yeah? Thanks for the news," he had replied, barely concerned about records.
No West Indian had twin hundreds in a Test since 2012, when Kieron Powell did it against Bangladesh in Mirpur. Only one other, obviously the one and only Brian Charles Lara, had achieved it since 1976 for the Windies. Hope was creating history. West Indies were creating history.
With two runs to win, Blackwood bid goodbye to his helmet to get a better sighter of Ali's flighted offies. He wanted to go for the glory hit. It was unfair on Hope, who had tussled for more than five hours to take West Indies to the cusp of victory.
Two balls later, Blackwood stepped outside for the big hit only to miss the heave and see Jonny Bairstow stump him. Hope deserved the winning runs in this Test and he would have it. He had stood up for this depleted side whom nobody gave a chance at the start of this Test. They not only fought, but fought and won.
"I feel elated. We've worked hard as a team and we're pleased to get over the line. I am professional cricketer for a reason so I always believe in myself. We fought hard throughout the game, so we needed to do well with the bat," Hope commented after receiving his well-deserved 'Man of the Match' award.
"Someone had to do it today and that someone was me" -- Shai Hope pic.twitter.com/upYUOw4RRo
— CricketWestIndies (@westindies) August 29, 2017
As West Indies' resurgence finds a new crest, Shai Hope, with his undying resolve and jaw-dropping temperament, stands out. West Indies needed a boost and Hope has given it to them. They are finally believing in themselves and this series is thrown wide open courtesy a Hope special. As he later said, "Someone had to do it and that someone was me." Watch out for more from this young man!
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