LEEDS, England, CMC – Two noted legends of English cricket have hailed the West Indies’ stunning second Test win over England at Headingley as one of the finest sporting triumphs in recent memory.
Ian Botham, arguably England’s greatest cricketer of all time, and Michael Atherton, one of their most capped players and captains, showered praise on Jason Holder’s team after their fearless and fascinating triumph at the historic ground on Tuesday.
Chasing 322 for victory on the final day, West Indies pulled off a remarkable five-wicket win, 11 days following a humiliating innings defeat inside three days in the first Test at Edgbaston.
Writing in The Times newspaper yesterday, Atherton said most observers expected a shellacking but the Windies changed the narrative and performed “a resurrection … of a once-proud cricketing nation fallen on hard times.”
“This was one of the great modern Test matches, one that produced a truly astonishing result,” Atherton wrote.
“In my time watching, playing and commentating on Test cricket I cannot think of a bigger upset when taking into account the low expectations for a team with a horrendous away record who had subsided to a three-day defeat only the week before.”
Botham echoed the sentiments of many over the world when he noted: “What Test cricket needs is a vibrant West Indian team. They bring everything – the colour, the party atmosphere.
“After being totally embarrassed at Birmingham, something they would have been devastated about, Windies managed to pick themselves up. It was great to watch and for Windies to show guts like that was a top performance.”
Botham, a highly-respected pundit with Sky Sports, was speaking at the venue where he performed one of cricket’s greatest feats – a back-to-the-wall-century against Australia in the 1981 Ashes.
Atherton, who is also a Sky Sports pundit, is familiar with the cricketing landscape in the Caribbean, having tour the region on two occasions, and also lived in Barbados.
“There were many heroes of the hour: (Jason) Holder, the young captain, who took the criticism full on after Edgbaston, and who batted with real authority when West Indies were wobbling in their first innings, and then bowled with heart and discipline throughout; Shannon Gabriel, who returned to lead the attack as a strike bowler should; but most of all two young batsmen around whom the semblance of a sturdy Test match batting line-up can be glimpsed,” Atherton wrote.
“Kraigg Brathwaite, from Wanderers Cricket Club and Combermere School, the alma mater of Sir Frank Worrell, and Shai Hope, of Pickwick Cricket Club and, latterly and briefly, of Bede’s School in East Sussex, led the charge, following up their hundreds in the first innings with magnificent contributions in the second.
“They were partners in both innings for 390 runs, more than half their team’s total in the match, and they were the rocks upon which England’s ship foundered.”
Hope, a stylish 23-year-old right-hander, stroked an unbeaten 118 to follow up his first innings 147, in the process becoming the first batsman to score twin hundreds at Headingley in 127 years of first class cricket at the venue.
Opener Brathwaite made 134 in the first innings and 95 in the second.