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
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)