Twin tons help Windies fetch lead

A quite brilliant partnership of 246 between Kraig Brathwaite and Shai Hope on Saturday (August 26) has put Windies in control of the second Test at Headingley. After the embarrassing loss at Edgbaston in the first match of the series, this was a stunning riposte to the criticism which has been levelled at the tourists in the days since that match in Birmingham. Windies finished on 329-5, leading by 71 runs, and although they lost two wickets in the hour before the close they have England very much on the ropes.

Where the West Indian batsmen were collectively so lacking in application and determination in the first Test, Brathwaite and Hope displayed those qualities in abundance here in front of a sell-out crowd in Leeds. There was no little skill either and plenty of cultured shot making but this was an effort based on the old fashioned Test match virtues of patience and doggedness. These two players, along with Jermaine Blackwood, should be the bedrock of the Windies’ batting for a decade or more.

Brathwaite was the first to reach his hundred, his sixth in Tests and second against England. In doing so he became the first Windies opener since Gordon Greenidge in 1984 to score a first innings hundred in this country. He did it in style, smacking the off-spin of Tom Westley over his head for six, and celebrated enthusiastically. So too did his teammates on the balcony. The Windies have been stung by the criticism they have received this past week and have responded impressively.

Hope’s maiden Test hundred was the more fluent of the two, coming off 159 balls compared to the 189 it took Brathwaite. Before this series, Head Coach Stuart Law said that Hope had the potential to become one of the standout players in the world and his ability shone through here. At the start of his innings, with James Anderson and Chris Woakes swinging the ball, Hope played late and once the ball got softer, displayed a range of shots off front and back foot. He was particularly ruthless on anything overpitched.

There was some luck early on as England’s bowlers bowled well in the first session without getting the breakthroughs. A couple of edged deliveries fell short of the slip cordon from Hope and he edged Anderson through where fourth slip would have been later on. Brathwaite was less troubled but the ball whizzed past his bat a couple of times as England’s bowlers found plenty of swing on offer. A slightly fuller length may have brought the home side more reward.

Anderson was the pick of England’s attack today and his spell during the morning session was quite brilliant. He conceded just ten runs off his first 12 overs in Windies’ innings and made the first two breakthroughs of the morning. Nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo was caught behind, wafting well outside off stump, and Kyle Hope was soon gone too, well caught by a diving Joe Root at second slip off an Anderson inswinger. The England fast bowler now has 495 Test wickets.

That left the visitors 35-3 and a repeat of their failures in both innings at Edgbaston looked on the cards. It could have been 54-4 when Brathwaite was given out LBW off Stuart Broad but the batsman reviewed straight away and replays showed he had clearly hit the ball. Seven overs later, he was again given out LBW, this time off Moeen Ali. Brathwaite again reviewed and the ball was shown to have hit him outside off stump.

Once the swing went, England’s bowlers struggled as Hope and Brathwaite asserted themselves. Woakes, who had come into the team at the expense of Toby Roland-Jones, is a fine bowler but looked short of a gallop today. His initial six overs were encouraging, beating the edge a number of times, but thereafter he proved expensive. In all, his 13 overs went for 58. Similarly, Broad bowled more loose balls than he would have liked and Moeen Ali was not allowed to settle by the Windies batsmen.

Hope and Brathwaite accumulated steadily with the latter clipping nicely off his legs and cutting anything remotely short through cover and point. Between lunch and tea, they scored 97 runs and the pair greeted the second new ball, only the third time this summer England have had to take it, with a flurry of boundaries off Woakes.

When the breakthrough came, it was Broad who made it, bowling Brathwaite with a ball that nipped back sharply. The 246 run partnership was the highest stand away from home, if you exclude Tests against Bangladesh, for the Windies since the turn of the millennium and their first hundred partnership in the first innings at Headingley since Roy Fredericks and Greenidge in 1976. Quite rightly, the opener was given a standing ovation by the Leeds crowd.

Roston Chase went soon after, edging a rising delivery off Ben Stokes to Alastair Cook at first slip for 5 but Blackwood and Hope, who finished the day unbeaten on 147, survived until the close. Windies still have five wickets in hand and will look to press on to a substantial first innings lead tomorrow. Whatever happens in the rest of this match, though, this was a day which re-asserted the pride and capabilities of West Indian cricket after the abysmal display at Edgbaston. Game on.

Brief scores: West Indies 329/5 (Shai Hope 147*, Kraigg Brathwaite 134; James Anderson 3-46) lead England 258 by 71 runs.

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