When Shai Hope attempted an audacious hook off Chris Woakes in the most inopportune moment, only to top-edge it to Stuart Broad hovering in the square, one knew that West Indies had mentally given up on securing a draw in this absorbing Test match.
West Indies’ unravelling in this series was both sad and predictable in equal measures.
Many had (including this correspondent) hoped that the stunning victory in the first Test at Southampton was the start of a new dawn for West Indies cricket in the longest format.
Yet, there were apprehensions and those were proven completely true in this capitulation within four days (one day was washed off by rain) in the series decider.
Let us go back to Hope as a case in point. The stylish right-hander was considered to be West Indies’ best bet to score big in this series and had had a pretty mediocre tour till the final innings of the final Test.
This was a chance at redemption. This was the time for him to prove his Test credentials by taking the Caribbeans to safety and help the visitors retain the Wisden Trophy.
At 31 off a mere 37 balls, Hope was rollicking along, perhaps too cavalierly in the circumstances. And that is what led to his downfall in the end.
Old habits die hard
The implosion post Hope’s departure was dramatic but symptomatic of old problems.
The Windies batters, much more effective in white-ball cricket, still lack the temperament to dig in for stretches that lead to results over five days.
Hope, the scorer of legendary back-to-back centuries in Headingley back in 2017, was literally their biggest hope. He just about crossed a century over six innings this time around.
Stretches of resilience had been shown in this series by other batsmen, most notably Jermaine Blackwood, who looked as steady as the Northern Star while guiding the visitors to a famous win at the Aegeas Bowl.
Shamarrh Brooks and Kraigg Brathwaite unfurled beautiful drives and cuts over the course of their brief stays but none could play the kind of innings required on this crucial day.
The fall from grace has been gradual over the three Tests, the Windies nearly secured a draw in the second before falling in the final session, but no such fight was shown here as they went from 45/2 to 79/5 in just over three overs.
While the pacers were largely impressive over the three-Test series, Gabriel, Roach Holder and the others seemed to be losing their sting as the series progressed as well.
There are a lot of positives to take away from the performance for the visitors who still cling to the bottom of the World Test Championship table, but they must be wary of not letting all the good work get undone.
England too good, too professional
Make no mistake, the pressure was on Joe Root’s boys before the second Test began in Manchester.
They were expected to walk over the visitors in this series and now stared at an ignominious home loss to the Caribbeans, the first in many decades.
But the way England turned it around was commendable and thoroughly professional.
If their batting looked slightly light at the top in the first Test, the application and determination shown by Dom Sibley, Rory Burns and Ollie Pope over the next two Tests belied that thought.
Often, this triumvirate took the dull way out of trouble, there was hardly any flashy strokemaking; what they offered was good old Test match batting and their technique and temperament, honed through years of County cricket, helped the hosts bat the Windies out of the series.
One cannot overstate the importance of Ben Stokes in this team. His stroke-filled 176 in the first innings of the second Test catalysed the turnaround. He only went from strength to strength from that point with both bat and ball.
The premier allrounder was a leading light for England in a series in which Joe Root, another brilliant cricketer, showed only glimpses of his greatness.
However, the one whose hunger and verve stood out the most in this series was undoubtedly Stuart Broad.
With 16 wickets and relentless accuracy over just two Tests, Broad showed why he should not have been dropped in the first match. He deservedly won the Man-of-the Series award.
Chris Woakes has also revitalised his career with game-winning performances with the ball in the last two Tests and picked up a five-for in the last innings. England’s pace attack, despite James Anderson not always being at his best in the series, is one of the most equipped in the world right now.
England, in third place in the World Test Championship table, may provide a strong challenge to the Aussies in second if they maintain this form over the next few series.
This was the 18th time that England have come back to win a Test series after dropping the first match. It is a testament to the team’s temperament and mental toughness that they can pull off such comebacks regularly, with them having pulled off a similar feat back in South Africa earlier in the year.
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