The day was Tuesday August 29, 2017. It was a landmark day in Headingley’s history.
It was as much a landmark day in the career of West Indian wicketkeeper-batter Shai Hope, who would later go on to represent Yorkshire as an overseas player.
Hope became the first player in Headingley’s history to score two hundreds in the same first-class match at our famous old venue, achieving it in a thrilling Test victory over England.
When people talk about magic moments at Headingley, attention will immediately be drawn to the Botham Ashes Test of 1981, also to the Stokes Ashes Test of 2019. Geoffrey Boycott’s 100th career hundred in the Ashes Test of 1977 was an ‘I was there’ moment for many a cricket lover. Even this summer’s Ashes clash will be long talked about.
Given he was a visiting player, Hope’s achievement may go under the radar. But what an effort it was, and one we were drawn back to in April when the Barbados-born star signed a short-term deal to wear the white rose on his chest.
The West Indies were on the ropes. They had been been hammered by an innings and 209 runs in a day/night series opener at Edgbaston, bowled out for 167 and 138 in reply to 514-8 declared.
The legendary fast bowler Sir Curtly Ambrose labelled the side “pathetic” following that performance, but coach Stuart Law hit back: “I believe in these young men,” he said.
“They have got high skills. It is just the experience of learning how to play in a very tough environment. We have to get our noses down, our backsides up and play better.”
Hope repaid his coach’s faith in grand style, with help from fellow batter Kraigg Brathwaite, who also threatened the same twin hundreds in the match record.
England were bowled out for 258 in the first innings. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel claimed four wickets apiece.
Opener Brathwaite and Hope shared 246 for the fourth wicket, recovering their side from 35-3 in reply to 427 all out. Brathwaite made 134 and Hope 147.
England responded strongly with 490-8 declared, setting a target of 322 late on day four. The hosts were the red hot favourites was the general consensus.
But Hope, in his 12th Test appearance – at the age of 23, had other ideas.
Shai came in at 53-2 in the 20th over. His brother Kyle had just been run out for a duck. But he anchored the pursuit in fabulous fashion, sharing 144 for the third wicket with Brathwaite and an unbroken 73 in increasing gloom for the fifth wicket with Jermaine Blackwood.
Brathwaite was oh so close to becoming the first man to achieve the twin hundreds feat, but Hope ended up being the one as the West Indies levelled up the three-match series at 1-1.
It is remarkable to think that no one had ever done it given first-class cricket had been played at Headingley since the 1890s.
It was no surprise that when Hope joined Yorkshire in April just gone, playing two Championship matches and impressing, that memories of his achievement were still fresh.
“It definitely was,” he said, when asked about a career highlight.
“How we went down to a gruelling defeat in the first game and how they talked about us in the media, we didn’t have any other choice but to come out guns blazing.
“I had no idea about the record. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting us over the line.
“Anything you do like that is special, and it’s something I will live happily with.”
It was a frustration to Hope that his hundreds couldn’t contribute to a series win, with England going on to win it 2-1.
“I don’t concentrate on records and statistics as much as some people may think. As long as I’m winning, that’s all the matters,” he said. “I’d rather have a sub-par personal record and win more matches.”
England limited overs international Sam Billings would later score two hundreds for Kent in a Championship win over Yorkshire at Headingley in September 2019.
But Hope is the man whose name will forever remain up in lights.
Hope this summer encouraged for Yorkshire. He played the first and third matches of the LV= Insurance County Championship campaign – the second was abandoned at Bristol because of weather – and posted scores of 13, 83, 38 and 53 not out in four innings.
He would be welcomed back with open arms should the opportunity arise again, when no doubt his magical achievement would be talked about once more.