West Indies defy doom-mongers to give themselves, and Tests, a shot in the arm

James Piercy 30/08/2017
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It’s testament to the glorious eccentricities of Test cricket that one of the finest five-match matches in recent history was won by a team of no-hopers.

Twenty20 cricket has proved the great leveller internationally, with the shortest format ensuring that despite a gulf in class and resources, teams like Ireland, Afghanistan and the Netherlands do have a chance against the world elite.

But Test matches are different: the sternest of examinations of a players aptitude at the crease, in the field and with the ball in hand; over five days where the utmost concentration is required.

Rarely does the weaker side win. Upsets do happen, but they’re often easier to forecast than what transpired at Headingley.

Going into a full day’s play having been blown away by an innings and 209 runs inside three days in the first match, with a top six averaging just 18 tests each and the West Indies without a Test win on English soil.

Given Moeen Ali’s form as finisher and James Anderson’s need for three wickets to reach the magic 500-mark, this was supposed to be over in time for tea.

What transpired stoic and stubborn display of batting by Kraigg Brathwaite – by far the most  experienced of their line-up with 38 Tests – and Shai Hope, with nominative determinism now stretching beyond his efforts on the field to him becoming a symbol for what the West Indies can become.

The post-mortems in the wake of the capitulation at Edgbaston weren’t delivered with the same vitriol as usually afforded to error-ridden teams. Yes, there was some criticism of Jason Holder’s captaincy and use of the new ball but, in essence, they were of pity and sadness that West Indies cricket had come to this. United in their grief for one of Test cricket’s iconic institutions. It was never going to get any better, nor it was possible.

Holder and his team could well have retreated into their shells, fallen back on their inexperience, pointed to eternal problems with the West Indies Cricket Board and a lack of ‘star names’ in the British Isles. Just like in Birmingham they wouldn’t have necessarily been individually blamed, what happens more a product of the environment they are playing cricket in.

Except, clearly head coach Stuart Law, Holder and his team-mates did recognise their mistakes, that it was their fault and, in doing so, that they could be corrected. Maybe, just maybe, they felt patronised.

How much their performance at Edgbaston influenced England’s approach in Leeds is unclear but there was an element of lethargy in the attack on day five, coupled with a sense of waiting for an inevitable conclusion that was never coming.

Joe Root’s bold/careless declaration on day four the starting point for where it went, but there would be few international skippers who wouldn’t have surveyed the West Indies, their track record and what they’re supposedly capable of, and not thought they couldn’t be finished off inside three sessions.

Context is everything, even when presenting the opposition a fourth innings total as reachable as 322.

Root will learn from any complacency that may have crept in, to his decision-making or that of his team but this should be more about the West Indies’ achievement.

For Test cricket it is considerable. The domination of India, Australia, England and to a lesser extent South Africa, healthy only in financial terms of the respective boards and ICC, for top-down economics of world cricket has sucked the life out of the competition.

Mason Crane dives to catch Roston Chase during day five of the 2nd Test

A match which ebbed and flowed, bemused and befuddled; featuring enough dropped catches for even Monty Panesar to blush, and the guilty parties being some of the most decorated players on the field. But most of all, it entertained.

Even with the victory in sight, two runs short of their total Jermaine Blackwood raised the alarm as he swung for the fences only to be stumped by Johnny Bairstow.

It sort of made sense, but at the same time was totally baffling. As sport should be. And while this is only one Test, which could prove a momentarily blip, there are signs of life and, just like the West Indies themselves, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

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Shai Hope leads West Indies to stunning second Test win over England

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Shai hope hit his second century of the match to lead the West Indies charge.

Shai Hope led the West Indies to an astonishing five-wicket win over England in the second Test on Tuesday as he became the first batsman to score hundreds in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley.

The West Indies, set 322 to win, finished on 322 for five with Hope making 118 not out — his second hundred of the match after his first-innings 147.

The 23-year-old Hope had not made a hundred in any of his previous 11 Test matches.

Victory gave West Indies their first Test match win in England since 2000 and saw them level the three-match series at 1-1 after they suffered a humiliating innings and 209-run defeat inside three days in the first Test at Edgbaston.

It was also, excluding fixtures against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, just the West Indies’ fourth Test win away from home in 88 matches spanning 20 years.

There seemed little danger of a West Indies win when England captain Joe Root declared his side’s second innings on 490 for eight late on Monday’s fourth day.

But after resuming on five without loss, the West Indies scored more than 300 runs on the last day at Root’s Yorkshire home ground.

Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite (95) shared a stand of 144 after they had put on 246 in the first innings, when Brathwaite made 134.

Hope, the first West Indies batsman to score hundreds in both innings of a Test in England since Gordon Greenidge at Old Trafford in 1976, hit the winning runs with two off Chris Woakes as the West Indies won with 28 balls to spare.

The series concludes with the third Test at Lord’s starting on September 7.

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Sri Lanka's cricket selectors led by Sanath Jayasuriya resign following team's recent debacles

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The Sanath Jayasuriya led five-man selector panel has quit.

Sri Lanka’s cricket selectors resigned en masse on Tuesday, days after fans hurled abuse and projectiles at the beleaguered national side as they suffered another humiliating thrashing on home soil.

The five selectors, led by former skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, handed a joint letter of resignation to Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, a ministry official told AFP.

The announcement comes midway through India’s five-match one-day international tour in Sri Lanka, a series the hosts conceded Sunday with a third straight loss.

Fans, tired of thumping losses, leadership changes and mismanagement, booed the home side and lobbed bottles as they approached inevitable defeat at Pallekele.

Play was held up for about half an hour, after which India recorded a six-wicket win.

“The selection panel felt they should step down, allowing the board to appoint a fresh set of selectors in view of the criticism and the crowd reaction on Sunday,” a source close to Jayasuriya told AFP.

The ODI series loss came hard on the heels of India’s three-Test series whitewash over Sri Lanka on home soil.

Selectors have borne a fair share of recent criticism, with Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga accusing the panel of lacking “backbone”.

The Sri Lankan players wait for play to resume after crowd trouble in Pallekele on Sunday.

The Sri Lankan players wait for play to resume after crowd trouble in Pallekele on Sunday.

The latest losses only compounded the misery for the national side, which suffered a humiliating ODI home series defeat against bottom-ranked Zimbabwe and bowed out early from the Champions Trophy in England.

They have also been beset by injury, with batsman Dinesh Chandimal ruled out of the remaining ODIs with a thumb injury and Chamara Kapugedara also likely to miss the matches.

Sri Lanka will play the remaining two ODI matches against India this Thursday and Sunday, and a one-off Twenty20 match against the visitors on September 6.

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