LONDON (Reuters) - Even the most diehard Yorkshireman might have found it impossible to suppress a smile as West Indies celebrated a stunning five-wicket victory over England in the second test on Tuesday.
At Headingley, a ground steeped in test match folklore, West Indies breathed new life into the five-day format with a performance that rocked the cricketing world and will hopefully help rekindle passion for the sport in the Caribbean.
From no-hopers the week before at Edgbaston when they lost 19 wickets in one day to crumble to an innings and 209 run defeat inside three days, West Indies made 322 for five in their second innings this week to complete a remarkable turnaround.
A first test victory in 17 years on English soil will not prove an instant cure for the sad decline in a nation once blessed with greats such as Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Brian Lara.
But the sport should keep its fingers crossed that it could prove a catalyst for a new generation, according to former England captain Ian Botham.
“What test cricket needs is a vibrant West Indian team. They bring everything - the colour, the party atmosphere,” he said.
“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.”
In the days leading up to the second test, some British pundits even suggested playing West Indies was the worst possible preparation for the forthcoming Ashes series - such was the feeble nature of Jason Holder’s young team.
The only question, it seemed, was whether the visitors could last longer than three days.
Instead, stung by the criticism, West Indies harnessed their undoubted skills into a cohesive unit and in Shai Hope, Kraigg Brathwaite, Holder, Jermaine Blackwood and Shannon Gabriel proved the heart of Caribbean cricket still beats strong.
Hope, the 23-year-old Barbadian, became the first player to score two centuries in the same match at Headingley - his second unbeaten effort of 118 guiding his side home on a compelling fifth day when the visitors reached a formidable target on a turning pitch.
Young opener Brathwaite followed his 134 in the first innings with a composed 95 in the second, while the likes of Roston Chase and the unpredictable Blackwood rose to the occasion with vital contributions.
In the end, when Hope clipped Woakes off his pads to claim the victory it was with something to spare - a scenario unthinkable when play began in the morning with James Anderson and Moeen Ali expected to rip through the West Indies order.
Another former England skipper, Michael Vaughan, led the praise.
”From the week at Edgbaston to now I’ve never seen such a turnaround in sport,“ he told the BBC. ”This is a high class England side on the back of beating South Africa, on English conditions, but they were out-thought and out-played.
“(I‘m) Delighted for West Indies cricket.”
Vaughan believes that in Hope, West Indies have a player who they can build a side around.
“Hope was up against two of England’s greatest in Anderson and (Stuart) Broad, the ball was hooping around, but he hung in and fought. The maturity they showed was incredible. I don’t think I’ve seen a last-day chase so cool.”
Michael Atherton, who as England captain once suffered at the hands of West Indies’ fabled attack, called the performance a resurrection. “From the depths of despair came a starling renaissance,” he said.
“A truly astonishing result.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge