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Cricket news - Fumbles cost England after opportunity came knocking

The general sense of untidiness was not just confined to dropped catches and missed run-outs.

The general sense of untidiness was not just confined to dropped catches and missed run-outs.

Defending a score of exactly 200 in the fourth innings, on a pitch displaying few demons, England simply had to take each chance that came their way. They just didn't have the runs to play with otherwise. But instead of grasping their opportunities, England dropped catches and missed run-outs at vital moments, the door closing on their ambitions in a series of fumbles and mishaps. Their profligacy just might have cost them a Test match.

It was a day when England had to do everything right. Given the slowness of the pitch and the lack of variable bounce or extravagant spin they would have hoped for, England needed to create ten chances and take them all. Despite the brilliance of Jofra Archer and a wholehearted effort from the other bowlers, four missed chances - three at crucial stages - scuppered England's hopes of a win. Ten openings were created, but only six were taken.

England dropped two catches that should have been held when Jermaine Blackwood was on 5 and then 20. Ben Stokes dropped the first as he moved to his right in anticipation of Blackwood's cut shot off Dom Bess only to see the edge fly through where he was originally standing. The second was missed by Buttler, low down the leg-side off the under edge of Blackwood's glove from the bowling of Stokes. It wasn't straightforward but it should have been taken.

Then, Zak Crawley fumbled a clear run-out opportunity when Blackwood was on 29 and found himself at the same end as Roston Chase after a miscommunication. West Indies still required 117 at that stage. Later on, Rory Burns could have also run Blackwood out with a direct hit when the batsman had 86. It was a much harder chance but could have made a difference given West Indies still needed 29 for victory. As well as Blackwood played, he had his lives too.

The general sense of untidiness was not confined to dropped catches and missed run-outs. Stokes would have taken a wicket off a no-ball had Burns, at gully, laid a hand on an edge off Blackwood when he was still on 29. That Burns couldn't didn't matter anyway. Stokes did eventually take a wicket off a no-ball later on, when Shane Dowrich edged to slip, although he made amends by removing the wicket-keeper next delivery. Nevertheless, it symptomatic of England's day. Full of effort but lacking the precision required.

The standard of fielding stood in marked contrast to the standard of Archer's bowling. Wicket-less in the first innings, he ended up with three today and retired John Campbell hurt after hitting him flush on the foot with a quick Yorker first ball. Where Archer had been too short in the first innings with the new ball, he zoned in on the stumps second time round to much better effect. The wickets of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shamarh Brooks were just a reward.

When Stokes turned to him for a second spell later in the day as England desperately searched for a wicket, Archer delivered it with a vicious ball to remove Chase. Quick and short at the batsman's throat, Chase could only glove it behind. That was in the 36th over. The ball was soft, the pitch was slow, Chase was well set and yet Archer still managed to bounce him out. It was quite a delivery.

There could have been more. Both Blackwood and Dowrich were left hopping around as Archer flew in again during his fourth and fifth spells. There were a few words with Blackwood and Archer thought he had Dowrich caught at slip off another short ball, although the batsman reviewed immediately and replays showed it came off his elbow. What the replay also showed was the batsman with both feet off the ground, head flung back and his body in the shape of an 'S'. That's what Archer's pace can do.

"Jofra was a huge threat every time he had the ball in his hand," Stokes said after the game on Sunday (July 13). "He got into a little battle with Jermaine Blackwood at the end which was great to see. Jofra is an x-factor player but he's also a very skilful player. To have someone like that in the bowling attack who can go in and out of different scenarios of how you want him to bowl... he's skilful with the new ball and we saw what he can do with an older ball today, which is crank it up."

While Archer's display was a positive for England, of particular focus in their de-brief will be their substandard first-innings performance, after winning the toss and deciding to bat. It was not a straightforward decision for Stokes. Although the forecast for the first two days was for rain and grey skies, the pitch was dry which England hoped would making batting first the best bet and batting last a dicey affair. As it turned out, the ball moved consistently for the whole of England's first innings and West Indies' bowlers made use of it expertly. Then, to compound matters, the pitch hardly played any tricks on the final day.

If Stokes had his time again, might he have taken a different course at the toss? Perhaps, although it is worth remembering that all but one of England's top eight batsmen made double figures in the first innings and yet nobody made more than 43. There was a lack of ruthlessness in their performance. The same could be said of losing five wickets for 30 runs last evening in their second innings. As Stokes said after the match, how important might another 60 runs have been?

Despite being behind the eight ball for a lot of the game, England will look back on the final day and still think they could have won. They missed important chances at crucial times which, had they been taken, would have significantly altered the complexion of West Indies' chase and could have led to a home win. If there is always a sense of frustration after a loss, there is perhaps just a little more frustration than normal within the England camp tonight. After all, they know they had the opportunities. They just didn't take them.

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