Throwback Thursday: Shai Hope's Headingley heroics complete epic West Indies turnaround
By David Ruse
Last Updated: 24/05/20 10:08am
What a difference a week makes.
Not right now, with each set of seven days almost identical to the next as lockdown measures remain stringent, but certainly for the West Indies cricket team in England in the summer of 2017.
I was at Edgbaston for the inaugural, and so far only, pink-ball Test in England when Jason Holder's tourists were thumped by an innings and 209 runs inside three days - Windies losing a record 19 wickets on the final day as they collapsed to a crushing loss in the series opener.
The margin of the defeat led to West Indies legend Michael Holding and the late Bob Willis suggesting the time could be nigh for two-division Test cricket. "What is the point of having a team outclassing another team like this? It's not good for cricket," Holding had told Sky Sports in Birmingham.
West Indies' display did not sit well with another of their greats, Sir Curtly Ambrose, who wrote in the Daily Mail that the result was "embarrassing".
"I never saw any aggression from the West Indies players throughout the three days. There was no belief that they could compete, let alone beat England. Trust me, it was painful to watch," said Ambrose.
"In the end it was totally embarrassing. What concerns me is that I do not think these players know what West Indies cricket means to West Indians and followers of the global game."
Sir Geoffrey Boycott was equally scathing in a Telegraph article: "This West Indies lot are the worst Test match team I have seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating on cricket. It is a cricketing tragedy to see the West Indies like this.
"They can't bat and can't bowl. I take no pleasure out of saying this as I played against some of the greatest players the world has ever seen wearing the maroon cap of the West Indies. It is just sad to see a once-proud cricket Test team lower than any I have ever seen before."
Fast-forward to the next Test match, though, on Boycott's home turf of Headingley, and West Indies were on an intoxicating high after winning a Test in England for the first time since 2000.
"It is one of the great turnarounds in sport," Willis - a man who was always more than happy to eat his words - said at the time. "From the complete humiliation at Edgbaston under the lights there to a famous win under the lights here! It was great for cricket."
Few would have given West Indies hope heading to Headingley but in Shai Hope they had a secret weapon and it was his twin tons in Leeds that underpinned his team's dramatic improvement.
The Barbadian had long been seen as a man with the required skill for Test cricket but his stats made for grim reading after 11 games.
He averaged just 18.61 and had hit just one half-century, albeit that was an impressive 90 from 209 balls in a win over Pakistan in Barbados in May 2017, when he helped his side up to 268 in their second innings while leg-spinner Yasir Shah was dismissing his team-mates en route to a seven-for.
Hope had shown little of that patience against England at Edgbaston as he was dismissed twice in a day, bowled on the drive by Toby Roland-Jones for 15 in the first innings and then snicking off for four in the second as he prodded tamely at a delivery from Ben Stokes.
But Headingley was a different story as he scored his first and second Test centuries, becoming the first man to hit twin tons on the famous old ground in first-class cricket.
Hope's first-innings 147, and fourth-wicket stand of 246 with fellow Barbadian Kraigg Brathwaite, had resuscitated West Indies from 31-3 and after Holder and the always effervescent Jermaine Blackwood added 75 for the eighth wicket, the tourists had fashioned a first-innings lead of 169.
Yet, England's lower order, headed by Moeen Ali, who pounded 84 from 93 balls and blasted 117 with Chris Woakes (61no) for the eighth wicket, flourished on day four, so much so that Root opted to declare late on with his side ahead by 321.
West Indies - who had been shoddy in the field, with dropped catches as well as a no-ball from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo that cost them Moeen's wicket on 32 - made it through to stumps unscathed, despite some probing deliveries from James Anderson and Moeen.
Brathwaite unbeaten on four, opening partner Kieran Powell unbeaten on one but the feeling around the office as we signed off the blog that West Indies would probably be beaten on day five and that the final Test at Lord's would be a dead rubber.
That feeling only increased the following morning - despite Sir Alastair Cook shelling a fairly routine catch at slip that would have seen Stuart Broad remove Brathwaite in single figures - when West Indies slipped from a promising 46-0 to 53-2.
Stokes showing Cook how it was done by pouching Powell chest-high in the cordon after Broad induced the edge, before Broad ran out Shai's brother, Kyle Hope, for a duck at the non-striker's end when he dropped a ball Brathwaite had driven fiercely back towards him onto his thigh and then onto the stumps. One Hope replaced another as West Indies' hope faded.
A clatter looked eminently possible as Brathwaite edged the next two deliveries just past fielders - England unperturbed by back-to-back boundaries at that stage - and Hope clipped just shy of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow before he had even got off the mark.
Confidence grew, however, with Hope, in particular, playing some buttery strokes through the covers and West Indies knowing the run rate was manageable. They moved on to 87-2 at lunch.
With Hope opening up either side of the wicket as Brathwaite grafted at the other end, that became 197-2 shortly before tea, only for Brathwaite to lose his cool on 95, slash Ali to slip, and miss out on two centuries in the same match. Hope, though, would complete the feat his mate could not.
He was ably supported by Roston Chase before the latter fell to a screamer of a catch from substitute fielder Mason Crane, and then reached three figures alongside Blackwood during a 74-run stand, after Root's review to have him lbw on 93 came in vain as the decision remained with umpire's call on impact. A crucial moment in the contest.
As Blackwood played bombastically, even creaming Anderson for six when the new ball was taken, Hope completed his ton with an edge for one off Broad. He celebrated mildly and without a smile despite the enormity of the achievement, knowing their was still a job to conclude.
Conclude it he did - albeit after being dropped on 106 by Cook at slip as the light began to fade - with a clipped two off Woakes as Windies won with a minimum of four overs to spare. That's when the emotion poured out.
"I am elated. We have worked really hard as a team to get over the line. I never doubted my ability - I made my way to Test level and always believed in myself," said Hope.
The heroic Headingley performance has not completely re-energised West Indies' Test cricket - they went on to lose that series against England and have since suffered heavy defeats to India, Bangladesh and New Zealand.
Nor has it proved the catalyst for Hope to become one of Test's best - the batsman hitting no hundreds and averaging only 25.51 in 19 Tests since, with his one-day international form far superior.
But it showed that the talent is there for West Indies and that was evident as they beat England 2-1 at home in early 2019 to regain the Wisden Trophy.
It's just a shame that if they are able to defend it in England this summer, then it will be behind closed doors.