Test Cricket breathes again…By Pratik Deshpande

‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’, Jason Holder would certainly concur as West Indies finally managed to break the hoodoo of 17 long fruitless years (Last test victory in England was in 2001) and stage one of the most outstanding comebacks in the history of the game. Newspapers and tabloids were filled with how diabolic West Indies have been, it is time two-division structure is created and West Indies should be relegated to that. They were ridiculed, castigated and written off by the game’s most decorated legends. The quantum of the defeat in the first test would have crushed many souls, but West Indies dug deep in their reserves and are breathing again in the series after a spectacular turnaround at Headingley. It appeared the West Indies were condemned to a bottomless pit after a hammering in the first Test in a little more than three days. Nobody gave them a prayer at the start of the second test, but gutsy duo of Braithwate and Hope didn’t appear to be wounded by the English demolition. Certainly the scars weren’t visible by the look of it. After Shanon Gabriel and Kemar Roach swung the pendulum West Indies’ way by restricting England to paltry 258, three quick wickets on the morning of the second day pegged West Indies back and had all the ingredients of the first test horror but Braithwate in the company of Shai Hope not only stemmed the rot but also put West Indies in the pole position. Men from the Caribbean are no strangers in squandering golden opportunities. Dropped catches, bizarre captaincy allowed England to claw their way back in the second essay and a few lusty blows from Moean Ali deflated the Holders’ troops further. Sensing at an opportunity to rub salt into the West Indies wounds, Root made a brave declaration (Something unexpected of an England captain!) to set West Indies a daunting target of 321 with a rampaging duo of Anderson and Stuart Broad having their tails up. The flame was doused by some dogged Windies openers and some sloppy slip catching.The virus of dropped catches got to England as they shelled Braithwate when he was just finding his feet. The missed opportunity cost England dearly as Braithwate stitched together another heroic stand with Shai Hope. The duo looked composed and indefatigable throughout the chase but still every sane person on the ground expected the West Indies to blink first and capitulate but on the contrary it was England who looked devoid of ideas and perplexed as West Indies sucked the energy and oxygen out of them. Shai Hope was a picture of poise, defiance, calm and control. If you would have looked at Shai Hope without a glance at his statistics, you would have mistaken him to be a thoroughbred in Test cricket. He was simply unshaken and guided the West Indies ship to the shores of victory without any further drama and theatrics normally associated.
Amidst the furniture overthrown on one collapse after another, hair pulled out in frustration on losing from dominant positions, rum and beer would certainly have tasted sweeter in the Caribbean.
The naysayer were made to chew their teeth as this performance was one for the ages. Headingley heroics have given the West Indies faithful a glimmer of ‘Hope’ (The new name in West Indies cricket) and let us ‘Hope’ this dream comeback was not a flash in the pan as cricket needs West Indies for the color and passion they bring to the game. England will return at Lord’s with all guns blazing, as they must be hurting from the defeat. How West Indies react will determine what mettle Holder and Co are made up of? It will go a long way in determining the path of West Indies and the health of Test cricket which has just come out of coma after the shocks received in the last week !

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