West Indies v England, 4th Test, Barbados, 1st day February 26, 2009

Windies rue squandered chances

Daren Powell produced the ball of the day to remove Andrew Strauss, but overall he was off the boil © AFP
Chris Gayle doesn't let many emotions show on the cricket field, but he must have been churning inside when Andrew Strauss's regulation outside-edge fell from his grasp during the first session. It happened last week in Antigua when Strauss was on 47 - here he was on 58 and seeing it like a football.

By the time Daren Powell conjured the ball of the day to uproot Strauss's middle stump, the drop had cost 84 runs and West Indies were playing catch-up. Gayle has stood at slip throughout his international career and caught his fair share in that position, but the two he has missed recently have been crucial. This wasn't the sort of surface when batsmen need a second opportunity.

Although West Indies are improving significantly, coaching them remains a frustrating experience and John Dyson could only shrug his shoulders. "I am sure Chris is disappointed that he missed that chance today but he does work at his slip catching and it is just one of those things," he said.

It was a day of misses and near-misses for West Indies. Alastair Cook escaped twice, a top-edge into the deep which Sulieman Benn, despite his huge strides, couldn't reach at deep midwicket, then an edge between keeper and slip when he had 86. Neither cost many as Cook fell for 94, but a more crucial mistake came in the closing overs as Kevin Pietersen was missed by Jerome Taylor at fine-leg off a fired-up Fidel Edwards. The aggravation was clear on Edwards' face.

It had taken West Indies 64 overs to make the breakthrough and it came, unexpectedly, from Powell, who again struggled with his ongoing problems of wrist position and control. However, his final spell of 7-3-14-1 was the best he had bowled for some time, although Dyson admitted his overall contribution was still below par.

"I think the wicket was very important for him, it was a terrific ball, he's been working to get back that shape - away-swing to right-handers, in-swing to left-handers, and it pitched perfectly. But overall today, Daren again would be disappointed with his bowling, he bowled too many loose balls, that is the area he really needs to work on."

Dyson, though, had more praise for the rest of his attack despite them conceding 108 runs in the morning session when there was a hint of swing on offer. "I thought that in the first session two of the pace bowlers bowled particularly well, I think the wicket is an exceptional batting wicket and I am sure our batsmen took heart at just what a good surface it is to bat on. I wasn't too displeased with the pace bowling in the first session."

England's end-of-play total of 301 for 3 is exactly the same as it was after the first day in Antigua. Then they went onto post 566 and something similar is on the cards here, but Dyson remained confident that his side can respond in kind.

"If it looks like a good wicket and feels like a good wicket, then the chances are that it is a good wicket. That is how we read it this morning, it looked a good batting wicket," he said. "We've set ourselves throughout our preparation to bat as well as we can throughout the game." West Indies have responded once to a huge England total, the chances are they will have to do it all over again to retain their series advantage.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo