At No. 2 in our list of Test innings of the year, it’s one of Shai Hope’s two superb Headingley hundreds, which Ben Gardner struggles to chose between.
Shai Hope: 147 (253b, 23x4s), 2nd Test v England, Headingley, 25-29 June
It’s an almost impossible task to choose between Shai Hope’s dual Headingley epics, as he became the first player to make two hundreds in a first-class game at the storied ground to underpin his country’s momentous, conversation-shifting victory over England.
Both came under immense pressure. His side had been humiliated in the first Test, taking just eight England wickets in a day-and-a-half as Alastair Cook and Joe Root helped the hosts rack up 514-8dec, before losing 19 of their own in a day to lose by an innings and 208 runs.
They were described as ‘lamentable’ and ‘woeful’, with those epithets justly earned. It’s not going too far to say that two more thrashings might have made this the last three-Test series they played on these shores for some time.
And though their fightback at Headingley began with the ball, when they combined well to restrict England to 258, their batsman threatened to undermine the good work; at 35-3, another sub-200 score beckoned.
It was in this context that Hope entered – with a Test average of 19 and a high score of 90 – and, along with Kraigg Brathwaite, rewrote the script. The pair added 246, and while Braithwaite was scratchier, overturning two ‘out’ LBW verdicts on appeal before reaching fifty, Hope rode out some testing early bowling without much alarm, before unfurling his full array of sweetly timed front- and back-foot drives to see his side into a lead.
His second hundred is perhaps the more immediately eye-catching; unbeaten fourth-innings tons in big successful chases always are. England’s second-innings 490-8dec had seemingly put paid to West Indies hopes of victory, stirring though their fightback had been, and was more of a lone hand. Though he and Brathwaite again combined well, the opener fell with the score on 197, with West Indies still 125 short of their target. Hope stayed to the end.
But we’ve decided it’s Shai Hope’s first that shades it, because it changed the narrative. His first-innings ton came when we didn’t really know what he had to offer – or whether the Windies could still mix it with the big boys of Test cricket. By the time he left, no matter what came after, he’d made sure that, for the first time in a long time, his team could look forward with hope rather than fear.