(CMC) – Shai Hope said Monday he was “very eager” to return to the Test squad after carving out a stroke-filled half-century on the opening day of an West Indies inter-squad four-day match.
The right-hander, who was axed following the tour of England last July, after a protracted run of lean form hit 79 off 88 deliveries with 13 fours and two sixes at the top of the order to grab the attention of selectors. And with opening partner John Campbell failing with 20, there is now heightened speculation the 27-year-old could return for the two-Test series against South Africa here next month. “This (match) is very important. As a batsmen, as a cricketer you always want to perform whenever you get the opportunity to play and in this instance, I am trying to be as consistent as I can be especially in a situation where there is the best red-ball players in the Caribbean,” Hope said following the day’s play at the Darren Sammy National Stadium.
“I’m just trying to make sure I can prove my point, if there is a point to be proven, and just continue doing what I can do.”
Hope has scored heavily in the opening position in One-Day Internationals where he currently averages 53 from 81 matches and an incredible 61 from 37 matches over the last 2-½ years.
In direct contrast, however, the Barbadian is averaging a meagre 19 from his last 17 Tests, and averages 26 overall from 34 matches.
Any route back to the Test squad will likely come through the opening slot and Hope said he foresaw no major challenges in approach to batting in the position in the longest format.
“Everything still applies. Still have to play the ball on merit,” he explained. “(It) depends on how the surface is playing and how the bowlers are bowling but the same thing applies – play the ball on merit.” Hope was sidelined at the start of the year after contracting the COVID-19 virus, forcing him to miss most of Barbados Pride’s campaign in the Super50 Cup.
His return for the latter stages saw him stroke two half-centuries in three appearances and he subsequently reeled off a hundred, and two fifties, in the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka last March.
Another half-century in a two-day match against the tourists meant Hope has now scored a half-century or more in his last seven innings.
With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting the amount of competitive cricket being played in the region since the outbreak of the virus last year March, Hope said the four-day match had much value attached. “It’s just nice to get back out there (and) have a decent enough hit,” said Hope, who famously hit hundreds in both innings of the Leeds second Test four years ago to secure a magnificent West Indies last day victory. “(I) haven’t been playing the amount of cricket that I would’ve liked in the last couple months, probably to a year, so it was just nice to get back out there and do what you love. “It’s a different format, a different type of cricket that we’re playing so it’s just nice to get some time under my belt and time in the middle. Hopefully I can continue learning and improving my game as it goes along.”