The first came in the Windies winning at Headingley, the venue in Leeds in northern UK long thought to be a fortress of Team England.
There were two astonishing results this week which should go a long way towards advertising the attractions of Test match cricket to an audience progressively losing its touch with the format. The first came in the Windies winning at Headingley, the venue in Leeds in northern UK long thought to be a fortress of Team England. It was in the appropriateness of things that a man named Hope should carry the team from the Caribbean to a morale-boosting Test win in England after 17 long years.
One swallow does not make a summer, least of all one of the West Indian variety, which has been a virtual endangered species of the cricket world. The calm manner in which Shai, who became the first batsman ever in the entire history of the game to get a first class hundred in each innings at Headingley, represents a great ray of hope for the former champions of world cricket. The enormity of his contribution should be seen against a background of panic in the ranks whenever the team was in a good position to turn the tables on their oppressors from around the world.
The other result this week that is bound to be seen as a rising phenomenon in Asia is the power of the Bangladesh cricket team, who beat Australia. In their first ever victory against the Oz, an undisputed Test champion of the world not so long ago before surrendering the title to Team India, the home team showed the ability to keep calm in a match of wildly oscillating fortunes. The Australians’ record against spin in the sub continent in the last four-plus years since Dhoni plotted their 4-0 downfall on designer pitches has not been good. Even so, the Bangadeshis had to be extra smart to negotiate this victory.
In the old days it was the fashion to support West Indian board with money because their cricketers were so good as to be marvellous entertainers wherever they went. But since the days of Clive Lloyd, who also used race to inspire his men to sporting triumphs, there has been a historical slide from which there has been little relief. It has probably taken two generations to pass after Viv Richards for a team from the Caribbean to feel the same sense of pride in performance. That it came after a kick in the pants from several critics, including their own, tells a tale.
There is a deciding Test with huge stakes to play in next week. Playing in England is still the best opportunity for the West Indies as their pace battery gets a lift in the conditions, something they can’t expect when they tour Asia. Bangladesh’s victory was the counterpoint to the series in England. Dry and dusty pitches tending to turn square early are not new. It is the attitude of the new Australian generation towards not learning to adjust well enough that is leading to fourth innings incapacity as we see so much of in the Aussies. They were so close to bucking the modern trend of home team dominance when they came apart after David Warner’s heroics.
Two away wins in the same week in Test cricket in this era would have been sensational because some of the charm of the glorious uncertainties of the game seems to have disappeared these days with home teams dominating Test cricket. Of course, uniform playing conditions in the shorter formats have gone into the creation of a very level playing field. Test cricket needed this boost of a change in fortunes badly, but more so the Windies. The enthusiastic Bangladeshis would have been pleased as Punch too.