England and West Indies have plenty of food for thought after a third Test won emphatically by the former and a series clinched almost equally as convincingly by the latter.
Joe Root’s return to form, Mark Wood’s revival as a strike bowling option, and lingering uncertainty at the top of the order were England’s takeaways from St Lucia, where the tourists claimed a 232-run victory inside four days for a face-saving 1-2 series score line.
They switch their focus to the five ODIs starting next Wednesday but, in the context of a landmark year of cricket including a home World Cup and Ashes series, they will also be thinking ahead to the English summer.
West Indies, meanwhile, will be boosted by their 2-1 triumph as underdogs, with some outstanding performances, including Player of the Series Kemar Roach, who took 18 wickets at 13.88 and Roston Chase, who claimed eight wickets in the first Test and scored an unbeaten century in his side’s second innings in St Lucia.
However, they missed suspended captain Jason Holder in the dead rubber and will welcome him back in the limited-overs series opener in Bridgetown, the scene of his unbeaten double-century that helped lead his side to victory in the first Test. They also felt the absence of impressive allrounder Keemo Paul, Holder’s replacement in St Lucia who broke down while fielding early on day three with a torn thigh muscle.
What England had lacked in the first two Tests – in sharp contrast to West Indies – was someone to stand up with bat or ball. In the third Test they had both with Man of the Match Wood’s five-wicket haul in the first innings and Root’s century in the second, but they also enjoyed a stronger all-round team performance with Joe Denly, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler scoring runs and James Anderson’s three wickets early in West Indies’ second innings snuffing out any hopes of chasing down a hefty target of 485.
Root gave his side plenty of time to bowl West Indies out, declaring their second innings at 361 for 5 on the fall of his own wicket. He was out for 122 within the first half-hour of play to an excellent diving catch by Shimron Hetmyer off the bowling of Shannon Gabriel, with whom Root had exchanged words the previous evening over comments that led Gabriel to be charged under the ICC Code of Conduct.
The declaration left Stokes stranded two runs shy of his second half-century for the match and he had looked set to build an impressive knock with some typical shot-making flair after play resumed.
Anderson claimed 3 for 5 in the space of 3.1 overs, while Wood chimed in with one to send West Indies to lunch at 35 for 4 in their second innings. Moeen Ali contributed well with the ball and in the field, claiming three wickets and taking a spectacular catch.
Anderson had Moeen to thank for his first wicket, claimed with the third ball of the innings when John Campbell drove and Moeen pulled the ball down with a sensational one-handed grab over his shoulder at gully.
Anderson, who went wicketless in the first innings, struck again in his next over when he forced Kraigg Brathwaite to play and had him caught by Stokes at second slip.
Darren Bravo, missing from the field for the entire third day as he sought treatment on a finger injury suffered earlier in the match, survived an lbw review off Anderson, and then Stuart Broad saw Shai Hope dropped by Butler in the slips. But Anderson had Bravo out a short time later, edging to Root at first slip and Hope went cheaply when Wood was brought into the attack, caught by a back-pedaling Broad at point.
Potential danger man Hetmyer was run out shortly after lunch, attempting a third run with Chase when Denly fired the ball in from near the boundary and Jonny Bairstow dislodged the bails with the batsman well out of his ground.
Chase went on to post some resistance, with a gutsy 102 not out but he ran out of batting partners.
Dropped catches were rife, but Rory Burns’ contribution to the blooper reel was a sitter, simple, head-height and with plenty of time, Roach’s chip off Moeen slipped through Burns’ hands at at mid-off. Roach’s cameo to an end on 29 when he drove Moeen to cover, where Wood took the catch.
Alzarri Joseph swung the bat for some late entertainment value, smacking three sixes on his way to a quick-fire 34 off 30 balls before he pushed too far and spooned Moeen to Anderson at mid-on.
With Chase not out 78, that brought Gabriel to the crease but his dismissal to a simple caught behind off Stokes when Chase was on 98 meant a lame Paul returned to action for the first time in the best part of two days. Unable to run, Paul saw Chase bring up his century with a four and then smacked three of his own before he was caught and bowled by Stokes to end the match.
Summarized scores: England 277 and 361 for 5 dec (Root 122, Stokes 48*) beat West Indies 154 and 252 (Chase 102*, Anderson 3-27) by 232 runs