Stokes: We lost be­cause we were not ruth­less enough

Tourists win by four wick­ets on dra­matic final day of Test Black­wood leads way with 95 as hosts pay for missed chances

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tim Wig­more

Ben Stokes ad­mit­ted that Eng­land had not been “ruth­less” with the bat as they fell to a four-wicket de­feat by West Indies in a thrilling first Test of the sum­mer.

“If we had an­other 60 or 80 runs to play with, ob­vi­ously it would have been a dif­fer­ent game,” said stand-in cap­tain Stokes af­ter West Indies reached their tar­get of 200 on the final day at the Ageas Bowl. “We had op­por­tu­ni­ties to do that in both in­nings when we had a bat in our hands.

“I think we’ll look back, par­tic­u­larly as a bat­ting unit, and un­der­stand that when we get into po­si­tions – like we did in the first and sec­ond in­nings of our bat­ting – we need to be re­ally ruth­less. And un­der­stand­ing that when we are on top to not give it back to the op­po­si­tion, re­gard­less of who that is.”

Eng­land were bowled out for 204 in their first in­nings, then lost their last seven wick­ets for 64 runs in the sec­ond in­nings.

“It’s a great learn­ing curve for us as a bat­ting group, yet again,” said Stokes. “It’s the same mes­sages that we keep say­ing to each other. It’s a ba­sic of Test match cricket of get­ting big first-in­nings runs.”

But Stokes said that he did not re­gret drop­ping Stu­art Broad. While Jofra Archer bowled su­perbly on the final day, Mark Wood, who was se­lected ahead of Broad, man­aged fig­ures of only two for 110 in the match. With Eng­land plan­ning to ro­tate their bowlers dur­ing the hec­tic sum­mer sched­ule, Broad is likely to re­turn for the sec­ond Test, which be­gins on Thurs­day.

“It’s been a mas­sive talk­ing point but I stand by my de­ci­sion be­cause if I didn’t, what mes­sage would that send to the guys I did pick,” said Stokes.

“It was a very tough call to leave

It was just be­fore mid­day in Kingston when Ja­maican John Camp­bell clipped a sin­gle to the leg side to de­liver West Indies their most sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory in Eng­land since the hey­day of the 1980s.

Yes they have won Tests here since then and drew two series in the 1990s. But West Indies teams of 1991 and 1995 were ex­pected to bury Eng­land, and while the Head­in­g­ley vic­tory of 2017 was a re­mark­able re­sponse to a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat a few days ear­lier, this win had noth­ing to do with prov­ing a point. It was a pro­fes­sional, clin­i­cal fin­ish­ing-off of Eng­land by four wick­ets by a team un­used to win­ning away from home in any sit­u­a­tion, let alone one as tense as this.

West Indies have beaten Eng­land four times in six Tests now, but this is the first time they have taken a 1-0 lead in a series out­side the Caribbean since 2007. With depth in attack, and con­fi­dence from man­ag­ing this chase, Ja­son Holder’s side are strongly placed to win their first series in Eng­land for 32 years.

To re­cover from 27 for three chas­ing 200 to win, with Camp­bell in the pavil­ion with his right foot in ice thanks to an 85.5mph Jofra Archer yorker, re­quired back­bone, par­tic­u­larly as Eng­land’s bowlers pep­pered them with short balls.

Jer­maine Black­wood is proof of how West Indies cricket has been re­con­sti­tuted on Holder’s watch. His 95 was con­trolled from a player who was forced to scrap his way back into the side by learn­ing to tem­per his ag­gres­sion. He picked his mo­ment to attack, ran well to keep the score­board mov­ing, while he sur­vived a short-ball work­ing over from Archer.

His only mis­take was a fail­ure to see it home and score his sec­ond Test hun­dred. His eyes lit up at a Ben Stokes half-vol­ley that he ham­mered straight to the hands of mid-off, leav­ing the stage with West Indies still 11 runs short of vic­tory.

It at least al­lowed a limp­ing Camp­bell to come back and hit the win­ning runs, part­ner­ing Holder, who let out a loud gut­tural roar at the mo­ment of vic­tory.

Only the most oneeyed Eng­land sup­porter would be­grudge West Indies this win. English cricket would have been bank­rupt had they re­fused to tour, but they left be­hind the safety of the Caribbean for a coun­try with one of the world’s high­est coro­n­avirus death rates.

There are no flights home so they are im­pris­oned in a biose­cure bub­ble for eight weeks, and were told they face a 50 per cent pay cut be­fore leav­ing home.

How­ever, their pride and de­ter­mi­na­tion stirred them to com­bine with Eng­land’s rusty play­ers to pro­duce a ter­rific con­test in the first Test since the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Eng­land made the short jour­ney back to their ho­tel rooms know­ing they had let this one slip. They gifted Black­wood three lives in four overs. Jos But­tler was the most guilty, drop­ping a catch off Stokes down the leg side on 20. It was orig­i­nally given as leg byes, but Eng­land would have re­viewed.

The pres­sure was start­ing to tell and ei­ther Black­wood or Ros­ton Chase could have been run out in a mix-up, but Zak Craw­ley fum­bled.

Black­wood’s final chance on 29 was a strong cut through the hands of Rory Burns at gully. Re­plays showed it was a big no ball by Stokes, so it would have been chalked off any­way, but Eng­land had lost their grip on the game.

Archer bowled his best spell since his six wick­ets in the Head­in­g­ley Ashes Test. He pitched up the new ball, tail­ing it in to bowl Kraigg Brath­waite and pin Shamarh Brooks lbw. Once the ball soft­ened, Archer went short and worked over the bats­men in a fiery sec­ond spell. Archer was not as quick as when he poleaxed Steve Smith last year, but his bounc­ers were at the body giv­ing bats­men nowhere to go.

The fact he could not rally Eng­land to vic­tory was not his fault. Eng­land lost be­cause they failed to score enough runs in the first in­nings and col­lapsed on Satur­day evening when they were cut down by Shannon Gabriel, whose nine for 137 won him the man-of-the­match award. He fin­ished off Eng­land yes­ter­day, snuff­ing out the stir­ring of tailend re­sis­tance that added 29 to the overnight score.

West Indies needed 200. Would they hold their nerve? Stokes put an arm around Archer as Eng­land walked on the field ask­ing him to “run through a brick wall for me”. The an­niver­sary of the World Cup final is to­mor­row. This run chase was go­ing to be just as hard to pre­dict. All this oc­ca­sion lacked was the un­for­get­table sight of MCC mem­bers singing Sweet Caro­line and that ab­sence of crowds, per­haps, helped West Indies. At three down, and Archer gen­er­at­ing heat, it could have been a dif­fer­ent story if a full house had been roar­ing Eng­land on.

But Chase and Black­wood com­piled a 73-run fourth-wicket stand. It took an un­playable snorter from

Archer that reared up off a length to re­move Chase for 37. Archer bowled a seven-over spell, get­ting quicker as it went on, but West Indies bat­tled, los­ing just one wicket for 107 runs in the af­ter­noon ses­sion.

Shane Dowrich diced with dan­ger as he tried to duck Archer bounc­ers by turn­ing his head and jump­ing with both feet off the ground. He was given out once off an el­bow, but over­turned the de­ci­sion be­fore Stokes came back on and found his out­side edge, one ball af­ter dis­miss­ing him with a no ball.

Holder came in to bring sta­bil­ity. With 32 needed, he steadily ticked the runs off with Black­wood un­til his final rush of blood. It did not mat­ter. An hour later, Holder was drag­ging his kit back across the Ageas Bowl to his ho­tel room to cel­e­brate a fine win.

Tak­ing it on the chin: Ben Stokes felt Eng­land’s bats­men un­der­went an­other learn­ing curve dur­ing the four-wicket de­feat by West Indies

High fly­ing: Shane Dowrich takes eva­sive ac­tion to avoid a bouncer; Ja­son Holder cel­e­brates with John Camp­bell (left)

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