West Indies completed a superb victory over England in the second Test at Headingley on an enthralling fifth day that will live long in the memory.
Shai Hope became the first man ever to hit twin centuries in 533 first-class matches played at Headingley, the 23-year old Bajan following up his maiden 147 in the first innings with 118 not out to steward the run-chase and seal the most brilliantly unexpected victory.
Coming into the final day at 5 for no wicket requiring 317 more runs to win, a West Indies victory seemed comfortably the third likeliest outcome, after first an England win and second a draw. But openers Kieran Powell and Kraigg Brathwaite, who eventually fell five runs short of a second hundred himself, played with skill and determination against the new ball, which was being made to talk by James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Brathwaite and Hope came together after two quick wickets with the score on 53 and the pair offered an exhibition of old-fashioned Test match batsmanship to put on 144 as the tourists steadily eroded the threat of defeat and worked their way towards the victory target.
When Brathwaite departed – well caught at slip by Ben Stokes off Moeen Ali – Roston Chase batted solidly for his 30 before falling to an excellent catch by substitute fielder Mason Crane off Chris Woakes. That left the freewheeling Jermaine Blackwood to help bring his side within two runs of victory, with 41 off in a partnership of 74.
With the game won, Hope walked off having batted for well over five hours, facing 211 balls and giving just one meaningful chance (to Alastair Cook at slip; he also dropped Brathwaite in that position early on) – when on 106 with just 37 more runs required.
It is hard to remember a more unfancied team winning in more sensational style. West Indies had earned huge criticism after a broadly dispiriting first Test at Edgbaston which they lost by an innings and 209 runs and left them branded “pathetic” and “embarrassing” by former great Curtly Ambrose.
Here, their performance was unrecognisable, showing far greater discipline with the ball and a world more fight with the bat, culminating in today’s astonishing chase. It is a victory that should give a much-needed lift to this young, inexperienced team, its beleaguered captain (Jason Holder was one of the game’s most effective bowlers) and its long-suffering supporters.
England can point to a couple of dropped catches, to their 258 first-innings score having won the toss, to a lack of bite in the pitch on the final day – and having walked out at 11am expecting to win, they will be understandably disappointed. But today is not about England.
Speaking with scarcely believable calm immediately after the game’s conclusion, still in his pads, the ever level-headed Hope said: “Someone had to do it, so I just put my hand up.” If West Indies’ unheralded but improving youngsters can keep raising their hands we could yet witness something of a revival in the national team’s fortunes.
At the very least, they have given us a victory for the ages and a wonderful game of cricket.