This was one of the greatest comebacks by West Indies in Test history after being obliterated in the previous Test. They lost the Birmingham Test by an innings and 209 runs after which, a valiant batting performance backed by modest bowling helped them square the series at Headingley. The two chief architects, who crafted a much-needed West Indian victory – Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope, stunned everyone with their marvellous outing with the bat.
Brathwaite and Hope defied all the odds and did the unexpected to help West Indies win a Test on English soil after 17 years. The duo put up century stands in both the innings to sail the West Indian ship from choppy waters. While Hope became the first cricketer to smash a ton in both the innings of a First-Class match at Headingley, Brathwaite missed out by a whisker after being dismissed for 95 in the second innings. The seeds of an emphatic West Indies win was sowed by these two batting stalwarts in both the innings.
When West Indies gained an emphatic 169-run lead in the first innings, a scintillating win looked on the cards, but not many expected it to come with so many twists and turns. England did a commendable job in bouncing back from a delicate situation and put pressure back on West Indies on a penultimate day. The match swung like a pendulum from one side to another, but West Indies walked away with a much-needed win eventually and square the three-match series 1-1.
West Indies dominated most of the sessions till Day 3, but England found a way back into the game on Day 4. In fact, England were in total command with West Indies having a mountain to climb on the final day of the Test.
After a disheartening start at Birmingham, West Indies had their hopes pinned at Leeds. They did extremely well in restricting the star-studded English batting to 258 in the first innings and then strengthened their stand by gaining a solid lead. Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite were outstanding with the bat and put up an awe-inspiring stand. This partnership gave West Indies a bright hope of squaring the series.
In Test cricket, negotiating the moving red cherry at the outset is considered as one of the most difficult tasks. Brathwaite got runs against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes in their den. It’s a huge achievement for the opener and has done extremely well to reap fruitful results for the hard work. Brathwaite’s Test average may be just over 37, which may not convey what he is capable of.
Brathwaite stuck to his guns and scored a tenacious 134 in the first innings. Most importantly, he stitched a crucial partnership with Hope to steady the innings after James Anderson ran through the top-order. Wickets kept tumbling at the other end, but Brathwaite stood firm.
Brathwaite bids his time at the crease and rotates the strike well. In the first innings, another West Indian collapse looked on the cards when Anderson spilt fire, but Brathwaite and Hope punched above their weight to steer Windies to command.
In the second innings, England not only had to overcome the 169-run deficit but also set a competitive target for the Windies. After useful contributions from Joe Root, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes, it was Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, who inflicted damage with the bat.
West Indies were mediocre when it came to fielding. And having dropped seven catches in the match corroborates the belief. English batsmen had some luck riding their way, but they did extremely well in capitalising on the reprieves. England declared at 490 for 8 with a lead of 321.
Chasing 322 on the final day against England in their backyard requires a lot. And West Indies did have an outside chance. All three results were possible on the final day, but the one that looked obvious was England’s victory. Not many gave West Indies a chance to save the Test leave alone about winning.
Brathwaite and Powell resisted well against the English bowlers in overcast conditions. West Indies started off well in the run-chase but lost two wickets in quick successions after a promising start.
West Indies needed a platform, which was once again provided by Brathwaite and Hope. Although Brathwaite was given a reprieve by Alastair Cook early on in the innings, but he did well in capitalising on it. He showed immense composure when his team needed the most and has done that quite often in the past. Brathwaite was dismissed just before tea, but had played his part and brought his side back into the game.
West Indies won by five wickets and this victory will certainly infuse plethora of confidence and momentum not only in the team but also in the series. West Indies were not expected to compete, but they now stand an equal chance of winning the series. And a lot of credit for this success goes to Brathwaite and Hope.