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Hope spring eternal for West Indies

QUALITY: Shai Hope fell four runs short of a century
Photo credit: ImageQuest

HOPE- Shai Hope that is - sprang eternal through the West Indies 321-8 runs innings. He batted steadily for his 96 with a more measured tread which allowed his more flamboyant colleagues to go for their runs.

The West Indies batsmen found some of their form against Bangladesh on the smaller ground at Taunton which is more suited to their style of play. More than that they did so in weather that was distinctively English and a Carnival crowd that was more in keeping with Dhaka or, at the least, Brick Lane.

West Indies cricketers seem to have permanent roles in the story Fifty Shades of Grey because that is the number of nuances of over-cast skies which have followed them these last two weeks. Never mind, this is Somerset – where the cider apples grow.

The locals were prepared to put away their bottles of scrumpy for a moment to contemplate the early arrival at the crease of Chris Gayle, the latest in the line of big-hitters. For this is Taunton, one of the smallest grounds on the circuit and the home of big-hitting. Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Arthur Wellard have all smote their mightiest smites here.

The suspense did not last long. Gayle had not even opened his account when he was caught at the wicket off Mohammad Saifuddin. My taxi-driver reckoned that the Jamaican had spent more time on the dance-floor last night where his friend had seen him. I couldn’t possibly comment as I was still trying to find a place in the press-box.

The Bangladeshi media corps had descended on the place and refused to be budged whether or not they were in their allotted seat. Can you blame them? It was their party.

I looked around at my hundred or so colleagues and could recognise only myself and one other as being from the West Indian press. The few West Indians in the crowd were swamped by the cheering Bangladeshis. The malaise has set in when reporters, commentators and public cannot bother to lend their support.

Pass me one of those bottles of scrumpy, and let us drink to better times – past – and future?

All is not lost, though. Mr Glen Esprit, whom I encountered by the West Indies coach, had some trenchant comment and advice about the perceived lack of supporters.

In his opinion there was the need for a drive to co-ordinate interest especially in the more provincial cities away from the big cities. He cited too the importance of role models being seen and available. Well spoken, sir, and I am sure he spoke for many more.

For all that, what sent on at the crease was encouraging. Evin Lewis and Shai Hope raised a 116 runs second-wicket stand. Lewis (70) was in rampant boundary-laden mood until he was caught in the deep from Shakib Al Hassan.

Subsequently most of the other batsmen at least got started, apart from the mercurial Andre Russell, as Hope maintained a composed presence and, if the bowlers play well, the total should be enough to keep West Indies in the hunt for a semi-final place.

Shai played well enough until with the end of the allotted overs looming he fell to the lure of the big-hit in trying to complete his century and was caught in the deep.

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