England will head to Australia next month emboldened by the confidence gained from a second successive Test series victory under Joe Root’s captaincy and the knowledge that James Anderson is in the best form of his career.
West Indies might not be the most formidable team in the world but they have proved in these final two Tests, including the shock win at Headingley last week, they are no pushovers either.
Just as they were in the opening match of the series at Edgbaston, the tourists were swept aside inside three days here at Lord’s.
Yet this result was less down to kamikaze batting and more the result of Anderson’s brilliance in taking a career-best seven for 42 that set up a straightforward chase of 107 for his team and a 2-1 win in this Investec series.
There was a certain inevitability that it would be Anderson who would again dominate proceedings a day after he had become only the sixth player in history to pass 500 Test wickets.
And so it proved as the 35-year-old, whose career tally stood at 501 after day two here, ended a phenomenal summer with another five wickets as West Indies, on 93 for three overnight, were dismissed for 177 in their second innings.
Anderson’s age may suggest he is coming towards the end of a glorious career. However, the facts before us tell a different story.
Tom Westley plays a shot during day three of the third Test (Getty)
As well as producing his best innings figures in Tests, this latest effort surpassing the seven for 43 he took against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 2008, Anderson’s summer has been his most prolific ever, with 39 wickets at the astonishing average of 14.10.
Only Jim Laker, who took 46 in 1956, has had more Test victims during an English season.
It is hard to believe Anderson’s career was in question back in December when he was left out of England’s team for the final Test against India at Chennai with what then captain Alastair Cook termed “body soreness”.
Coming as it did at the end of an 18-month period where he had been dogged by a succession injuries, his future was a valid talking point.
James Anderson celebrates his seven-wicket haul after the West Indies were bowled all out for 177 (Getty)
But he has come back this summer looking fitter and stronger than at any point of his career.
England have confirmed that this match was Anderson’s final act of the summer, he will now be rested until the team depart for the Ashes tour on October 28.
That’s bad news for title-chasing Lancashire, who would have hoped to have Anderson available for at least part of their County Championship run-in. However, it makes perfect sense with Australia in mind.
England will arrive in Perth in seven weeks’ time with confidence after following up their 3-1 victory against South Africa earlier this summer, in what was Root’s first series as Test captain, with another here against a spirited West Indies.
A general view of Lord’s (Getty)
There are still many questions to answer ahead of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane, yet overall Root can be pleased with the positive start he has made as captain.
Of those questions, the two most pertinent involve whether rookie batsmen Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley will be on the plane to Australia.
The pair’s 72-run stand saw England to their target inside 28 overs, Stoneman, in just his third Test, perhaps nailing down his position as opener with an unbeaten 40.
Westley, who has struggled since scoring a half-century on debut five Tests ago, looks less assured of his place at No3, even if he applied himself well by finishing this match on 44 not out.
The fact England’s run chase was so simple owed everything to Anderson.
Alastair Cook readies to play a shot during his innings on the third day (Getty)
West Indies held a slender 22-run lead with seven wickets remaining at the beginning of this third day. And they failed to add to that before the leader of England’s attack struck with the fourth ball of the day, Roston Chase the victim of a beautiful delivery that he edged behind to Jonny Bairstow.
Jermaine Blackwood went in similar fashion soon after, Anderson claiming his fourth wicket of the innings after he had earlier seen Stuart Broad drop the No6 batsman.
Catching has not been the highlight of this series, with both teams dropping a combined 26 between them.
But Broad did hold on to a chance at mid-on off the bowling of Toby Roland-Jones to send West Indies into lunch on 153 for six.
Amid the carnage at the other end, Shai Hope held strong, reaching a fine half-century in 127 late in the morning session to add to the twin centuries that had inspired his team to that series-levelling victory at Headingley.
Devendra Bishoo is bowled by James Anderson (Getty)
Hope has had a superb series, ending it as the leading runscorer and an average of 75. Indeed, West Indies appear to have unearthed a real talent who, at the age of 23, could go on to be the mainstay of their batting for years to come.
However, Hope – and all West Indian hope – evaporated in the second over after lunch when Anderson produced yet another near-unplayable delivery the youngster could only edge behind.
Hope left to a standing ovation, his 62 runs the foundation of a lead that stood at just 84.
Anderson, buoyed by his 24th five-wicket haul in Tests, then finished things off with the wickets of West Indies captain Jason Holder and Kemar Roach.
The tourists just didn’t have enough runs to test England, even if the early loss of Cook, trapped lbw to leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo’s first ball of the match, left two inexperienced batsmen in Stoneman and Westley to see their team home.