London (AP) — With James Anderson as good as he’s ever been, England clinched the third test against West Indies on Saturday and a second straight series win at home, a promising final preparation for a bigger assignment — the Ashes in Australia.
England’s last test before the trip Down Under at the end of the year produced positive signs against the West Indies beyond just the nine-wicket win, which was claimed on a difficult Lord’s pitch that made the series-decider something of a lottery for the first two days.
West Indies were bowled out first for 123, then England for 194 to start the test.
On day three, ultimately the final day, England took control through Anderson’s 7-42, the best innings return for the veteran seamer in his 129th test.
Anderson proved there’s still life and swing in his right arm, and overs in his legs at age 35, and England were further boosted by new batsmen Tom Westley and Mark Stoneman. They are yet to fully establish themselves in the top order but took the team to victory with a mature and unbroken 72-run partnership at the end.
England knocked off the 107 they needed in the second innings before tea for the loss of just Alastair Cook. Westley finished 44 not out and Stoneman 40 not out, good news for England in the one area they have struggled all summer.
The top order beyond captain Joe Root and former skipper Cook have been found wanting, but Stoneman and an attack-minded Westley, who cracked seven fours, provided fragments of evidence that they might be the right choices to open and bat at No. 3 in Australia.
Against West Indies, England emerged victorious in a bowler-dominated game on a bowler-friendly strip where neither team reached 200 in any innings, although England weren’t really tested in their second knock.
Anderson, the first Englishman to 500 test wickets on Friday, underlined his lasting value on Saturday. He took the first two West Indies wickets on the day, the last one, and the most important one.
That telling blow came straight after lunch when Anderson got Shai Hope for 62 with a superb outswinger for his fifth wicket. That removed West Indies’ highest scorer and best batsman of the series. The tourists’ last four wickets fell for 22 runs in six overs to be out for 177 in their second innings.
Like he’s always done, Anderson constantly tested the West Indies around off stump with pure outswing bowling, and got the odd one to surprise and jag in. His seven wickets all came in one of those two ways: Three caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and the other four clean bowled.
That proven combination netted him his best innings haul in tests, took him past 500 test wickets, and gave him a series-leading 19 wickets through the three matches, eight more than the next best bowler. And, as TV analysts noted, Anderson’s average speed at Lord’s was around the same as it was at the start of his 14-year test career.
“This week will live with me for a long time,” Anderson said. “I’m delighted with what I’ve achieved.”
In his first summer in charge, Root led England to two series wins from two after South Africa were seen off first 3-1.
England were tested in both series, and came through both times. That kind of grit will likely serve Root and his team well when they attempt to retain the Ashes from November.
England’s victory over the West Indies was clinched by Anderson but set up by allrounder Ben Stokes, who took 6-22 in West Indies’ first innings and produced a crucial 60 in England’s first innings. That gave England a 71-run first-innings lead and the platform to win from.
West Indies ultimately fell short in a series few gave them a chance of being competitive, let alone winning a test and sending it to a decider.