West Indies right-hander Shai Hope struck an imperious hundred in St Lucia on Tuesday which all but secured his return to West Indies’ squad for next week’s start of the two-Test series against South Africa.
The 27-year-old followed up his silky 79 on Monday’s opening day of the inter-squad four-day contest with an unbeaten 104 which propelled Jermaine Blackwood’s XI to 197 for three in their second innings at the Darren Sammy National Stadium.
Hope struck nine fours and half-dozen sixes in a 132-ball knock which lasted just under three hours, and never once appeared fazed albeit against an attack lacking experience.
He reached his half-century with an audacious lofted cover drive for six off erratic speedster Chemar Holder and raised triple figures late in the day with an identical stroke, this time for four, off part-time leg-spinner Nkrumah Bonner.
“It’s been a slight change of game plan. I’ve been trying to show a bit more intent [but] still trying to make sure I play the ball on merit and be disciplined,” Hope said of his attacking approach which also saw him score at a strike rate of nearly 90 in the first innings.
“It’s about making sure the bowlers don’t settle and almost putting pressure back onto them. So the key is to make sure I can stay within my game plan.
“Obviously the situation of the game would dictate how I play in certain passages but more or less that is the [type] of play I will try to portray so hopefully it works out in the future, and hopefully I can continue in this vein and continue to score runs.”
The likelihood of Hope featuring in the upcoming South Africa series was further strengthened by the unavailability of incumbent opener John Campbell due to injury.
It meant Darren Bravo opened with Hope but the left-hander made only 17 in adding 42 before edging fast bowler Jayden Seales (2-28) to gully where Kieran Powell nailed a superb catch diving to his right.
Two balls later, Seales produced another beauty to have Kavem Hodge caught at the wicket without scoring but Hope then dominated two half-century stands to steady the innings.
First, he put on 92 for the third wicket with Kyle Mayers whose breezy 40 came from 43 balls and included seven fours, before adding 63 in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership with captain Blackwood who was unbeaten 23 off 34 deliveries.
Earlier, all-rounder Raymon Reifer hit an unbeaten 60 as Jahmar Hamilton’s XI, resuming from their overnight 44 for four, were dismissed for 178 to concede a first-innings lead of 86 runs.
Paul Palmer, starting the day yet to score, never added after falling to a catch at the wicket off fast bowler Shannon Gabriel (2-16) but Reifer put on 57 for the sixth wicket with Roston Chase (35) and another 37 for the seventh wicket with Hamilton (19).
The left-handed Reifer hit seven fours and a six off 122 deliveries in three hours while Chase, resuming on five, counted three fours and a six off 75 balls.
Fast bowler Nial Smith, who finished with three for 35, then struck twice late on as Hamilton XI lost their last four wickets for 28 runs.