Shai Hope‘s last five Test innings have brought two centuries, a fifty, and now an unbeaten 90 against Zimbabwe in the first Test at Queens Sports Club. He is the rock of the West Indies batting line-up, but it was not so long ago that he was in a struggle to keep his place. After all, he had made only one half-century in his first 11 Tests.
So what is the secret behind his recently-found success? “Simplicity,” Hope said. “Keep it as simple as possible. Try not to complicate your game and put too many things in your head. Rotate the strike.
“I just try to simplify it as much as I can, playing the ball late. Pick the gaps and keep the score rotating as much as possible. You don’t really want them [spinners] to settle on one batsman, because that makes it much easier. They know where to bowl consistently. In the end they’ll get you out.”
West Indies had done well, at least initially, to avoid such a predicament in Bulawayo. Hope and the opener Kieran Powell, who reached a half-century of his own, had shared in a 75-run stand for the third wicket to help lay the foundation for a big total.
“I would say we were ahead of the game at that stage,” Hope said. “I can see his [Powell’s] confidence is good, he’s playing a lot better. He’s adapting to the conditions well as well.”
But then came the collapse, from 175 for 3 to 219 all out. While Hope himself flourished, drawing from a familiarity with the conditions having played here during last year’s tri-series against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, his team-mates were caught unaware by the amount of turn that was available.
“It’s always an advantage to be playing at a ground you’ve played on before,” Hope said. “Last year it spun quite a bit, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise, despite it being a first-day pitch. We might not have expected it to spin quite as much though.”
Hope was ultimately left stranded 10 runs short of what would have been his third Test century, but having been in the middle for 201 balls, he knows first hand how difficult it is to score runs on this pitch and that meant West Indies were not out of the contest yet.
“Honestly, it was a very slow outfield,” Hope said. “So that 219 could easily have been closer to 300. When I was batting, I hit quite a few balls through the gap, but scoring was never easy. It’s under par, it’s under what we were expecting, but I still think we have a chance.”