Hip! Hip! Hinds!
For six uplifting hours at Kensington Oval yesterday, Wavell Hinds transformed the West Indian pessimism of the recent past into real hope for the future, immediate and long-term.
The tall, slim, 23-year-old left-hander's commanding 165, his first hundred in his fourth Test, was the backbone of a total of 283 for five that carried the West Indies to a lead of 30 when fading light brought an end to the second day of the second Test 3.2 overs before the scheduled, extended close.
Ever eager to take on Pakistan's varied, high-class bowling on a batsman-friendly pitch, Hinds used his bat with such effect that his chanceless innings was embellished with 24 resounding boundaries in almost every direction.
He disdained the modern practice of applying the pad as first, not second, line of defence and was only troubled by the late left-arm inswing of Wasim Akram, one of the game's most successful bowlers in his 94th Test.
Whenever he had the chance, he thumped the ball with genuine power.
Just as significant, his performance was an irrefutable indication that worry over the present state of West Indian batting, especially at a time when the future of the mercurial Brian Lara remains in considerable doubt, has been somewhat exaggerated.
The optimism was boosted over the final hour and 50 minutes by the mature debut Test innings of Ramnaresh Sarwan, at 19, slim and diminutive and seeming to be a boy on a man's mission.
His approach belied the appearance. Like Hinds, it was positive and his right-handed technique was solid and attractive.
He despatched Abdur Razzaq and Wasim Akram for two disdainful boundaries through midwicket and aided Hinds in a fifth-wicket partnership of 69 at a time when the West Indies have been so often been inclined to go into terminal collapse.
He resumes this morning on 28 with a heavy obligation since the current advantage of 30 is negligible for a team that must bat last.
Curtly Ambrose is by his side, having fulfilled his nightwatchman role, with Ridley Jacobs and the other three fast bowlers to follow.
The West Indies' situation would have been considerably more comfortable had Hinds not failed by ten minutes to last out the day.
He fell to a tired hook shot off Waqar Younis with the second new ball that lobbed from the splice of the bat to mid-on.
It was a stroke the Pakistanis had fed him throughout with varying results. Some were airily miscued but short of fielders, others were thumped to the boundary, none with more authority or relish than three in one over from Wasim Akram.
Hinds began his critical innings quarter-hour into play when left-handed opener Adrian Griffith's fine leg-glance off Waqar Younis was taken down the leg-side by the tumbling wicket-keeper Moin Khan.
Enjoying the benefits of an accommodating surface from which even the tried and proven Pakistanis could make little impression, Hinds outlasted his three senior partners: Sherwin Campbell, who made 58 and with whom he added 133 for the second wicket, and fellow left-handers Shivnarine Chanderpaul and captain Jimmy Adams, both dismissed cheaply.
He immediately advertised his approach with two confident off-side boundaries in the same over from Waqar and, by lunch, already had nine fours in 51, three off Mushtaq Ahmed whose leg-breaks and googlies had so confused him in the rain-ruined first Test in Georgetown.
In his 40th Test, Campbell carries a heavy burden of responsibility but he has had an indifferent season. Kensington is his home, and favourite, ground where he has gathered two of his four Test hundreds and, once settled after a difficult opening salvo from Wasim Akram, he indulged himself in his preferred backfoot strokes and looked better and better on the hard, true, grassless pitch.
He hooked Waqar and Akram for sixes and, when Mushtaq's leg-break just
before lunch dropped short enough, he sent that over the square-leg boundary.
A fourth six came from the unusual device of a straightforward leg-glance to long-leg. Akram's return cleared Moin's head, a clutch of slumbering fielders failed to back up and, as Waqar set off towards long-off in pursuit of the wayward ball, Campbell and Hinds converted the original single into six.
As the partnership developed, frustration clearly set in for the Pakistanis.
Twice, Hinds mistimed strokes that just eluded fielders, while four times Moin and Akram argued over the state of the ball with umpires Rudi Koertzen and Eddie Nicholls before they finally had their way and it was replaced.
They regained their composure during the lunch interval and batting was not nearly as easy on resumption.
Once more, Akram posed difficult questions with his late swing that confused Hinds and brought three lbw appeals in the same over, one of which, off a full toss, was as close as they get. Hinds was then 62.
At the opposite end, Campbell's dismissal after a steady innings was unlucky. He played Saqlain into his pad and could not prevent the ball rolling back to dislodge the off-bail.
When Abdur discomfited Chanderpaul with a wicked bouncer that brushed the glove on the way through to Moin just before tea and Adams was given out 35 minutes into the final session to a slip catch off a prodigious off-break from Saqlain that television replays clearly showed missed the bat, the West Indies were still 40 behind.
It was a difficult time for two young batsmen. But Hinds and Sarwan saw it through like veterans.