Shai Hope comes of age to guide West Indies to historic win over England
Shai Hope, who became the first batsman to score two hundreds in a first-class game at Leeds, guided the West Indies to a five-wicket win over England to level the three-match series 1-1. This was Windies’ first Test win in England since 2000.Updated: Aug 30, 2017 15:55 IST
There are a few knocks in every player’s career, which define their sheer grit and determination, calibre to play the game and the ability to perform under pressure. From VVS Laxman’s 281 against Australia to Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘desert storm’ in Sharjah, there are a select few that fans like to trace back to, to simply relive the experience.
For Shai Hope, the 23-year-old from Barbados, it has to be the second Test of the ongoing series against England. With 11 caps in the longest format of the game and only a single half-century to show, there really shouldn’t have been too much to hope for. Yet, he held on. His batting average, which was a shoddy 18.61, shot up to 29.81 by the end of the Test, and his side achieved something they haven’t in the past 17 years — a Test win in England. The hosts didn’t play poorly. It was just that hope triumphed over expectation at Headingley.
After being selected in the squad when the Englishmen came to tour the Caribbean islands in 2015, Hope failed to make it to the playing XI in the first two Tests before squabbling his chance in the third; getting dismissed for scores of just 5 and 9.
A month later, Australia played two Tests against the West Indies and blanked them 2-0. Hope could only add 80 runs in those four innings. For a cricketer who received his Test cap from the legendary Clive Llyod, living up to that honour seemed to get a bit difficult. Nonetheless, the youngster held on. With the board marred with internal conflicts and senior players refusing to bow down to the administration’s diktat, chances kept knocking on the door.
Everyone knew of his potential. All he had to do was to prove his worth at the biggest level. He had hammered 628 runs in nine matches in the first-class format in 2014-15 and racked up another 538 runs at an average of 67.25 in the following season.
Shai Hope earned his ODI cap in 2016 and in the very second game, he smashed a cracking ton against Zimbabwe away from home. Although it would take him another eight knocks before getting to the half-century mark, it provided him with a bit of a breathing space. In the Test format, he played just two Tests in 2016, scoring 9, 11 and 41 in the three innings.
It was in 2017 when he finally scored his first double hundred in first-class cricket. And perhaps, it was a sign of things to come. After starting the year with scores of 2, 6 and 5 against Pakistan, he scored 90 in the second innings of the third Test, helping his side register a 106-run victory over the Asian giants. That consolidated his spot in the Test format as well. His 436 runs in 12 ODI innings also helped his cause to finally get the monkey off the back.
And finally, after climbing through those steep terrains where holding on to after a slip tested his character, he finally reached the peak at Headingley. His ton in the second innings helped his side chase down the mammoth 322-run target, something no team had been able to achieve since Don Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ back in 1948.
West Indies are possibly in their worst shape ever, a tragic fall that saw their tag go down from being ‘All conquering’ to ‘minnows’ and yet, if there’s still hope and a belief that all is not over, the responsibility surely rests on the shoulders of young cricketers like Shai Hope -- who’ve clung on to get what they deserved.