Lord’s basked in sunshine on a cool September afternoon as England eased to a nine-wicket win in the third Investec Test, giving their series victory an aspect of comfort it scarcely deserved. James Anderson’s career-best seven-wicket haul, which included his 500th in Tests, provided the excuse for champagne corks to pop early – though little excuse is needed here – and there was time to drink in the last of the Test summer, as Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley knocked off the runs required.
West Indies’ mantra since their defeat at Edgbaston had been about showing “fight” and England finished the series with a few more bruises than they might have expected. The resistance was again embodied by Shai Hope, whose half-century at least gave them something to bowl at, but England had in Anderson a man who thrives on a battle as well. He began West Indies’ decline in the second innings with wicket No. 500 and finished them off with No. 506 on the third afternoon, leaving England with a target of 107 to secure a second victory for Joe Root in two series as captain.
Anderson struck twice in his opening spell as England threatened to fatally constrict the West Indies innings but Hope, the “man of stone” on whom victory at Headingley was built, gave another display of his minerals. It may not have provided West Indies with a winning score but it served further notice of Hope’s burgeoning talent.
West Indies’ hopes had rested squarely on his shoulders during the morning session, when he was vigilance personified while losing three partners. But having faced 144 balls, Hope was finally removed – almost inevitably – by Anderson, in his second over after the interval.
Anderson’s bellow of delight was unrestrained, in part because of the identity of the batsman and perhaps also down to the quality of the ball, which demanded a stroke before taking the edge with Hope stuck on the crease. That completed his five-wicket haul and he had a sixth moments later when he bent a delivery in from round the wicket to beat Devendra Bishoo’s defensive prod and hit off stump.
Jason Holder struck a few boundaries to push West Indies’ lead into three figures but when he top-edged a pull to mid-on to depart for 23 – Anderson taking the catch for Stuart Broad – the jig was just about up. Shannon Gabriel avoided a king pair thanks to the Decision Review System but Anderson then rattled Kemar Roach’s stumps to better his 7 for 43, against New Zealand in 2008, by one run.
Batting continued to be a survivalist pursuit – at least until England completed a low-pressure chase – despite more leisurely conditions on a Saturday when the sunshine was only intermittently broken by scudding clouds. Hope began watchfully, adding just eight runs to his overnight 35 during the first hour and bracing himself every time the ball passed his outside edge – as it frequently did during a suffocating examination by Anderson and Broad.
During 14 overs sent down by England’s senior pair, West Indies managed 19 for the loss of two wickets, their plan to try and get through the early stages intact derailed inside the first over of the day. Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood fell to catches behind before Shane Dowrich briefly counterpunched, only to donate his wicket and complete a miserable series with the bat.
Having been joined by his captain, Holder, the last West Indies batsman with an average above 20, Hope switched into a more assertive mode. He struck his first boundary, reward for patiently navigating the previous 20 overs, with an elegant stroke through the covers off Ben Stokes – who then left the field with a suspected knee complaint – and brought up his half-century with a supremely timed on-drive off Toby Roland-Jones.
Hope’s resistance left England mulling how many they would be happy to chase, but they could not have asked for a better start. Anderson, fresh from breaking the 500-wicket barrier and having switched to bowling from the Nursery End due to his pair of warnings for running on the pitch on the second evening, was immediately into his work. Chase faced only two deliveries, the second of which he chivvied into the gloves of a leaping Jonny Bairstow.
Anderson ought to have had his fourth a few overs later, when Blackwood slapped a drive to mid-off, but Broad saw the ball burst through his hands as he dived to his right. Broad thought he had picked up Blackwood himself, only for a thin inside edge to save him from lbw on review; but the batsman was transparently unsettled and, in Anderson’s next, steered a catch to the keeper.
There was another drop to come – the 25th of the series – when Broad flew to his left in his follow through but could not get more than fingertips on Dowrich’s chipped drive. Although Dowrich battled stoically to reach double-figures for the first time in the series, he then spooned a miscued pull to mid-on trying to go after Roland-Jones.
West Indies’ lead at that stage was 52 but Holder played with composure to help add 30 more before the break. Joe Root almost struck himself, having come on to bowl the final over before lunch, but England saw another low catch escape Alastair Cook at gully when Holder chanced a drive.
The fight had not entirely gone out of West Indies but there was little prospect of them defending such a small target once England had cruised to 35 without lose from after seven overs. Cook was the only batsman to fall, dismissed by Devendra Bishoo’s first ball of the match, as Westley and Stoneman assembled the further 72 required. Both will hope to be in England’s Ashes party, although if there was anything this unexpectedly rewarding series had taught us, it was not to look too far ahead.