England toured the West Indies in 2021/22 for three Test matches, and lost the series 0-1. The reports by Ali Martin, Rory Dollard, Nick Hoult, and Tim Wigmore originally appeared in the 2023 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

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Review: Ali Martin

Like the Twenty20 games a couple of months earlier, the Test leg of England’s trip to the Caribbean was full of gratitude. The West Indian men’s and women’s teams visited the UK in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. Two Test matches had become three, the freshly minted Richards–Botham Trophy was unveiled to denote a renewed bond of friendship between the boards, and English supporters, who had been shut out of the Ashes, crossed the Atlantic in their thousands to provide a boost to local economies. Two run-heavy draws in Antigua and Barbados were a challenging watch, before West Indies aced a low-scoring decider in Grenada by ten wickets, leaving the tourists winless in eight winter Tests.

Not that England – under the listing captaincy of Joe Root, with Andrew Strauss as interim managing director and Paul Collingwood interim head coach – wanted this outcome filed alongside the debacle in Australia that led to the sackings of Ashley Giles, Chris Silverwood and Graham Thorpe. They had dropped eight players, including two all-time greats in James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and flown west in late February espousing a fresh start. English cricket’s penchant for corporate jargon meant the trip – plus the announcement of the latest review into the domestic game – was a “red-ball reset”. Even at the end, as Kraigg Brathwaite led his West Indies players on a lap of honour, to the delight of a strong Grenadian crowd and a relentless steel band, Root and his support staff spoke of “big strides forward” that had simply been undone by two bad sessions.

Those outside the dressing-room were less convinced. Granted, once Jonny Bairstow’s pugnacious 140 had overcome a wobble of 48-4 on the opening morning of the series, a couple of turgid surfaces had helped restore some confidence in England’s batting line-up, with Root – back at No. 3 – continuing his celestial form from 2021, and five centuries from the top six.

But West Indies resisted twice – four down by the end in Antigua, five down in Barbados – before prevailing on a fruitier pitch in Grenada. Variable bounce meant, finally, that the ball had the edge over the bat, but England failed to prevent a maiden Test century by wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva on a pivotal third morning, then disintegrated in the afternoon when Kyle Mayers, a batting all-rounder, registered a first five-wicket haul with his medium-pace. This was England’s fifth successive Test series without victory, and the enduring image was of Root, head in hands on the balcony, after the calamitous run-out of Ben Foakes. Three weeks later, Root accepted the consensus that his time was up, and stepped down after five years, and an England-record 64 Tests, in charge. It was not just the consequence of one win in 17 Tests, or a powerlessness in Grenada to prevent Da Silva and the tail turning 95-6 into 297 all out, and a crucial lead of 93. Root had also been party to the decision to leave behind Anderson and Broad, not that he ever owned it. Instead, Strauss delivered the news to the pair during a couple of five-minute phone-calls, then took the heat publicly, claiming it was a strategic move designed to “give the new director of cricket and coach options to choose from”. But coming before a tour in which Root and Collingwood talked up a newly collaborative team environment, it read between the lines as one last attempt to shore up Root’s authority by removing two dominant personalities. Either way, the decision was not vindicated, and smacked of disrespect to both West Indies and Test cricket.

Had results not been so urgently required in the World Test Championship, had Jofra Archer and Olly Stone not been long-term injury absentees, and had Ollie Robinson not spent all three Tests watching from the sidelines because of back spasms attributed to his poor physical conditioning, this look towards life beyond two record-breaking veterans might have earned greater understanding. Instead, it seemed a seismic policy decision from a leadership group with no obvious mandate. The names of Anderson and Broad hung over those selected like Banquo at the feast. Mark Wood was the sole specialist seamer with prior Caribbean Test experience, but suffered a tour-ending elbow injury after bowling 17 overs in the first game, and only Saqib Mahmood – with six wickets and a gutsy career-best 49 from No. 11 that briefly rescued England on the opening day in Grenada – enhanced his reputation.

No bowler, though, would have relished the first two surfaces. England met a couple of indelible opponents, too: Nkrumah Bonner spent over 12 hours at the crease in Antigua for scores of 123 and 38 not out, before Brathwaite bettered this in his native Barbados with 160 and 56 not out, batting five minutes shy of 16 hours. Even so, the sight of Chris Woakes and Craig Overton repeatedly squandering the new ball justified concerns over their effectiveness away from home. Mahmood was waspish and skilful in his first two outings.

Matthew Fisher, handed a debut in Barbados after Overton fell ill, claimed a maiden Test wicket second ball – only to become another English-style fast-medium neutered by conditions. Jack Leach sent down 189.3 parsimonious overs of left-arm spin, and finished as England’s leading wicket-taker, with 11, yet never threatened to win a Test, because of his mainly flat trajectory. Matt Parkinson, the leg-spinner, came no closer to a first cap, mixing more drinks than a Manhattan bartender.

This collective lack of threat meant Ben Stokes once again filled in the gaps. He finished as England’s hardest-working seamer, and with a knee injury to show for it, having begun the trip unsure of his readiness to bowl because of a side strain suffered during the Ashes. But he was on a renewed personal drive to recapture his and the team’s Test form after shouldering arms to the delayed second half of the IPL. He also had a documentary crew shadowing his tour, and provided the cameras with one bona fide highlight, ransacking 120 from 128 balls on the second day in Barbados – his first century since a four-month break the previous year for injury and mental health reasons.

Many at Kensington Oval – around 8,000 from England, compared with about 3,000 for the other games – had wondered if they were being financially exploited by the Barbados Cricket Association’s choice of pitch. But Stokes’s innings, at least, provided something beyond sunshine and sea to boast about on the postcards home. Besides his eruption of 11 fours and six sixes, however, and some stylish strokeplay from Dan Lawrence, referred to Ollie Pope at No. 4, obduracy was the order of the day.

The officials were drawn from locals, under the ICC’s Covid regulations, with mixed results: 20 decisions were overturned. Root also failed to review a couple of potentially match-defining errors. The first came when Leach rapped Jason Holder on the pads on the fifth day in Antigua, which might have opened up West Indies’ lower order. In Barbados, after Stokes struck Jermaine Blackwood in front on nought – and England again made no challenge – Blackwood got his head down for 102 in a stand of 183 with Brathwaite that heavily shaped the ensuing draw. On the crucial third morning in Grenada, Jayden Seales, West Indies’ No.11, should have been lbw early on to Mahmood, which would have limited the hosts’ lead to 41. Root, though, was out of reviews, and Seales supported the resolute Da Silva for a further 23 overs and 53 precious runs, softening English minds. Seales then removed Zak Crawley, whose latest expansive drive began the critical collapse of the series. Mayers, dismissing Root cheaply in both innings, was an unlikely executioner, leaving onlookers wondering if the county game was truly preparing batters for the rigours of 75mph nibble.

Not that West Indies weren’t good value for a victory that followed a lost season of domestic four-day cricket, and maintained a record of just one series defeat at home by England since 1967/68. Brathwaite’s phlegmatic batting and leadership had set the example for his players, while his attack, spearheaded by Kemar Roach and the promising Seales, never lost heart. Da Silva played the innings of the series, and showed a maturity that belied his 23 years. In short, they had rope-a-doped a far better resourced and remunerated opponent, to leave English cricket’s red-ball reset looking more of an ill-judged rebrand, and Root a captain out of touch with reality – and, soon, out of a job.

England touring party: JE Root (captain, Yorkshire), JM Bairstow (Yorkshire), Z Crawley (Kent), MD Fisher (Yorkshire), BT Foakes (Surrey), DW Lawrence (Essex), MJ Leach (Somerset), AZ Lees (Durham), S Mahmood (Lancashire), C Overton (Somerset), MW Parkinson (Lancashire), OJD Pope (Surrey), OE Robinson (Sussex), BA Stokes (Durham), CR Woakes (Warwickshire), MA Wood (Durham). Head coach: PD Collingwood. Batting coach: ME Trescothick. Seam bowling coach: J Lewis. Spin bowling coach: JS Patel. Fielding coach: CD Hopkinson. Strength and conditioning coach: PCF Scott. Performance support coach: MES Saxby. Doctor: GC Rae. Physiotherapist: SJ Griffin. Nutritionist: EL Gardner. Analyst: RJ Lewis. Team operations manager: AW Bentley. Head of communications: DM Reuben. Digital editor: WTA Turner. Security manager: RC Dickason. Security officer: Y Ali.

At Coolidge, Antigua, March 1–4, 2022 (not first-class). Drawn. England XI 466-6 dec (145 overs) (AZ Lees 65, Z Crawley 62, JE Root 54, DW Lawrence 83, JM Bairstow 106*, CR Woakes 49*; BNL Charles 3-143) and 164-4 dec (39 overs) (Z Crawley 35, DW Lawrence 48, BT Foakes 43*); CWI President’s XI 264 (96.1 overs) (KU Carty 57, RA Reifer 106; MJ Leach 4-62) and 123-7 (52.1 overs) (JL Solozano 32, KU Carty 49). England’s batsmen filled their boots, with the exception of Ben Stokes, who made 11 and 19. Raymon Reifer scored a century, and Keacy Carty came close to twin fifties. The visiting bowlers enjoyed mixed fortunes: Jack Leach had match figures of 6-87, but Ollie Robinson pulled up with a back injury in his tenth over, and played no further part in the tour. The hosts used 13 players; England used their entire squad, except Matt Parkinson, though Ollie Pope neither batted nor bowled.

First Test at North Sound, Antigua, March 8-12, 2022: Drawn

West Indies 2pts (after 2pt penalty), England 12pts. Toss: England. Debut: AZ Lees.

Report: Rory Dollard.

It is unknown what exactly was going through the minds of Viv Richards and Ian Botham as they watched this match, the first to form part of the new prize bearing their names. But history suggests both prefer their cricket with a bit more panache. With the Wisden Trophy retired after nearly six decades of service, the pair were in Antigua to scatter their stardust on the latest chapter of a storied rivalry. What unfolded over five days on an unresponsive pitch did not reinvigorate the tale quite as hoped, but both sides chalked up little victories along the way.

For an England team still nursing a thunderous Ashes hangover, there was the rare satisfaction of ending a game in the ascendant, of pushing from the front foot rather than hanging on by a fingernail. For West Indies, a draw meant the continuation of a proud undefeated tradition on the island against England, who had never won in 11 attempts in Antigua, going back to their first Test at the old Recreation Ground at St John’s in 1980/81.

Stalemate was a fitting result for the surface served up by groundsman Tony Merrick, the former Leeward Islands quick whose pitches have become reliably pedestrian. An injury to Wood midway through the match might well have been the death knell for a positive result. England badly needed his pace to hammer down the door, but he managed only 17 overs before pulling up, joining fellow fast men Jofra Archer and Olly Stone on the injury list. Yet the Test was bookended by potentially decisive passages. England’s top order flopped once more on the first morning, and West Indies briefly buckled on the final afternoon. But the moments passed without a killer blow. That was largely down to the efforts of Bairstow, Bonner, Crawley and Root – in chronological order the four centurions, each exploiting the benign conditions.

Bairstow’s knock was perhaps the most impressive, coming at a time of genuine peril. England had chosen to bat on a lifeless strip, but in front of a healthy band of travelling supporters, released from most Covid-19 restrictions. Permitted access to the ground by a rapid antigen test, thousands of fans were soon pondering the possibility of a rapid Antiguan Test. Inside 16 overs, and with the shine barely off the Dukes ball, England had slumped to 48-4. Seven weeks, 10,000 miles and several sackings on from their last collapse, in Hobart, they looked just as vulnerable as they had Down Under.

Roach, Player of the Series during England’s previous visit three years earlier, was a familiar foe. He handed the left-handed opener Alex Lees a blink-and-you-miss-it debut, hypnotising him with a sequence of awayswingers, then suckering him with the first that came in. For his next trick, Roach persuaded Root – back in the No. 3 slot he had spent most of his time as captain avoiding – to shoulder arms to a ball that shaped in and lifted the off bail. With Crawley and Lawrence also failing, England’s much-discussed reset was looking just like the old set.

Bairstow, at 32 and almost a decade into his Test career, was more old stager than new blood, but showed resolve, piecing together a thoughtful 140. Initially knuckling down with Stokes, then accumulating with Foakes and stewarding the tail, he put on a mature display. By the time he was last out on the second morning, he had restored order with his eighth Test century, and carried England beyond 300 for the first time in 13 innings. When they followed suit in their second, it was the first time they had done so twice in a game since November 2018 at Galle.

They now entered the most anticipated phase of the Test: their first new-ball spell since the omission of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. They had been injured in the past, occasionally rested and, more recently, rotated. But for England to omit both men, and their combined 1,177 Test wickets, was new territory. Sequestered in Manchester and Nottingham respectively, they had made their feelings known through their preferred mediums – podcast for Anderson, newspaper column for Broad – and must have been interested observers as West Indies openers Brathwaite and Campbell negotiated a gentle examination.

Woakes struggled to rise to his assignment as leader of the attack, while Overton – having traipsed around Australia without a suggestion of being picked, and owing his spot here to Ollie Robinson’s back spasms – resembled an understudy thrown centre-stage after a late call-up. Invited to stride out of the shadow of two greats, they barely tip-toed. So inviting were some of their early offerings that Brathwaite, usually a refusenik blocker, was recast as a flighty dasher, reaching his fastest half-century, from 62 balls. If Anderson and Broad had lived by the virtues of bowling dry, their replacements had sprung a leak.

The game’s momentum stalled almost entirely on the third day, as West Indies added a soporific 171-5 in 90 overs and one ball. The frequent montages of Richards and Botham in their pomp, testosterone-fuelled alphas slugging away for supremacy, seemed comically inappropriate. But at the heart of the tussle was the engagingly committed Bonner. Once considered a failed gamble as a T20 flyer, he had rebuilt his red-ball career from the bottom up, and continued a year of solid progress with a painstaking century. Based on an implicit belief in his orthodox technique, his centrepiece occupied a marathon 355 balls over more than nine hours. It was a throwback innings, all the more remarkable for the absence of first-class cricket in the Caribbean for a whole season during the pandemic.

England’s interim head coach, Paul Collingwood, reached for hyperbole when he called his side’s constrictive bowling performances “one of the best efforts I’ve seen in an England shirt in Test cricket”. Matching Bonner for endurance was Stokes, who arrived on tour in the late stages of recovery from a side strain, and was not expected to bowl until the second Test. His bullish streak had already persuaded the medical staff he was ahead of schedule, but a match load of 41 overs – his biggest since Bridgetown three years earlier – was above and beyond.

Bonner helped West Indies to a handy lead of 64, only for England to enjoy a second-innings stroll. For Root, a 24th Test hundred offered reassurance after his move up the order, but Crawley’s second felt more meaningful. Nineteen months on from his effervescent 267 against Pakistan, he had spent 21 innings searching for a repeat performance. His flaws had been well established, but this was a reminder that, of all the openers who have tried and failed to lock down a place in England’s revolving top order, he had the broadest range of shots, the sweetest timing and the brightest ambitions. “I knew I had a chance to come again,” he said. “But it’s been a while since my last century, and there were times when I didn’t think I’d get another.”

The game’s conclusion never quite ignited, despite a decent declaration from Root, who set 286 in 71 overs. West Indies, whose biggest ball-strikers remained on the franchise carousel, refused the bait. Leach took three wickets as they slipped to 67-4 either side of tea, but Bonner and Holder blocked further progress – though Holder would have departed leg-before for 13 had England reviewed Leach’s appeal in the 49th over.

Root did not offer a handshake until the last moment – with six wickets and five deliveries left – but disagreed with an accusation of disrespect from former West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite, a pundit back in BT Sport’s studio in London. Having overseen just one win in his last 15 matches, Root was not about to let a chance disappear through lack of curiosity. “I have a huge amount of respect for every team we play against,” he said. “Given the opportunity to do it again, we’d go about it the same way.”

Player of the Match: NE Bonner.

Second Test at Bridgetown, Barbados, March 16-20, 2022: Drawn

West Indies 4pts, England 4pts. Toss: West Indies. Debuts: MD Fisher, S Mahmood.

England supporters greatly outnumbered West Indians but, for one visitor, the second Test made an overseas trip worthwhile: for the first time since his debut over a decade earlier, Kraigg Brathwaite was watched by his mother, Vicki, who had flown in from Miami. He faced more balls in a Test than any West Indian – 673 deliveries across two bloody-minded innings of self-restraint – and blunted all attempts to force victory on a comatose pitch.

Brathwaite was immense, batting for 10 minutes short of 12 hours to compose his first-innings century, and another four to repel the tourists on the final day, after their lunchtime declaration had enlivened a dull game. An estimated 8,000 England supporters had turned up on the first, after the government lifted Covid crowd restrictions, but the number halved as the game progressed, and Brathwaite began filling local beaches instead. Many stayed away, giving up on a bare, slow pitch that sapped the bowlers’ will.

His staring contest with Leach, who bowled 94.5 overs in all, determined the outcome of the Test. Had it gone Leach’s way, England might have charged to victory. Ultimately, with runs to play with and time on his side, he lacked the touch to break Brathwaite’s filibuster, and the Test finished with six close-in fielders, some on their knees in hope of an edge. In total, he faced 309 balls from Leach, of which 273 were dots. Brathwaite was on the field for all bar 19.1 overs of the game. It was the kind of exercise in mental strength that only Test cricket demands.

England had two debutants: Saqib Mahmood, who replaced the injured Mark Wood, and the 24-year-old Yorkshire seamer Matt Fisher, who came in when Craig Overton, named in the team 24 hours earlier, reported feeling unwell. It meant the Fisher family collected £5,000, thanks to a bet his mum had placed ten years earlier that he would play for England.

Root won the toss, and batted in glorious conditions, only for Crawley to waste them, caught behind for nought off Seales. Lees defended doggedly: after two low scores on debut, his caution was perhaps understandable, though he didn’t show much beyond a desire to survive. But things perked up. While Lees and Root had taken 197 balls to post a fifty stand, Root and Lawrence required just 69. They motored along, picking off bad balls: Lawrence got going with successive fours off Holder, hit Permaul for six over mid-wicket, and moved to fifty off 62.

When he was dropped at slip on 72 off Seales, Root had a word, advising him not to give it away after playing so well. He listened, for a while. In the final over of the day, another pair of fours off Holder took Lawrence into the nineties for the first time in Tests; aiming for a third, he was caught at cover, and had to drag himself off. All the while, Root classily justified his move up to No. 3, reaching stumps on 119, after a day of steady acceleration by England: 47 in the first session, 89 in the second, 108 in the third. It was his 25th Test century, and fifth against West Indies.

Shortly after lunch next day, he fell for 153, having overtaken Alastair Cook’s England record of 11 Test 150s. Roach, who removed him, also ticked off a big name: his 236th Test wicket surpassed Garry Sobers, and placed him seventh on West Indies’ list. Sobers was there to see it happen: now 85, he sat throughout in the same high-backed seat on the mezzanine level of the Worrell, Weekes and Walcott Stand, an object of pilgrimage.

Root, happily reduced to a bystander, put on 129 with Stokes, who went on to complete an emotional hundred, his first in 25 Test innings, and first since the death of his father, Ged, in December 2020. He celebrated by holding up a fist and bending his middle finger – the one Ged had amputated during his rugby league career. “I don’t like to speak selfishly, but it was a nice feeling out there to look up to the sky,” said Stokes, having become the fifth – after Sobers, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Jacques Kallis – to score 5,000 Test runs and take 150 wickets. “It was one of the more memorable hundreds I’ve got because of everything that’s gone on.” He finished with 11 fours and six sixes from 128 balls. After being rushed back into the Ashes ahead of time, he had endured a quiet tour. This was his real comeback.

It was a day to remember absent fathers. After Root declared at 507-9, giving his bowlers just under two hours at West Indies on the second evening, Fisher had Campbell caught behind with his second delivery. He ran towards his brother, Mark, sitting in the stands, finger in the air to salute their dad, Phil, who died in 2012. “Barbados was his favourite place,” Mark told the BBC. “He brought us here when we were very young. It whetted all our appetites to play cricket.”

Brathwaite was given out leg-before on 14 to a quicker, flatter ball from Leach, but DRS confirmed an inside edge. It would be another 428 deliveries before England saw the back of him. He resumed day three on 28 and, after the wickets of Brooks and Bonner, pieced together a pivotal partnership with Blackwood. Had Stokes agreed to review his lbw shout against Blackwood before he had scored, West Indies would have been 101-4. Instead, two players of contrasting styles put on 183 in 67 overs, sucking time from the match and hope from their opponents. Brathwaite’s tenth Test hundred included the slowest fifty of his career, from 167 balls – immediately after his fastest, in Antigua. It inspired Blackwood, who calmed his aggressive instinct to play his most responsible Test innings yet. England’s mood did not pick up when Mahmood yorked him on 65, but was denied a maiden Test wicket by a no-ball. “I felt like criminal No. 1,” he said. Blackwood brought up his third Test hundred, and second against England, before he was lbw playing no shot to Lawrence late on the third evening.

The fourth day was a real slog, and spectators drifted away. Brathwaite eventually fell for 160, bowled by Leach, who looked shocked to beat the outside edge, let alone hit off stump. He put in a hefty shift, his 69.5 overs the most in a Test innings for England since Phil Tufnell’s 71 against New Zealand at Wellington in 1991-92. Armed with a lead of 96, the tourists stretched it to 136 by stumps, but hopes of a result were running low. It was to their credit that they tried to salvage something from the match, scoring a further 145 off 25 overs – including 41 off 39 balls from Lawrence – to set up the declaration.

Root later admitted he should have pulled out earlier, but at the time his decision felt about right. He had given his bowlers 65 overs, setting West Indies a total of 282 they were never interested in chasing. English ambitions rose with three wickets in the afternoon: Leach took care of Campbell, before Mahmood – bowling with pace and accuracy from the Garner End – had Brooks and Bonner caught at slip. Leach, though, was the likeliest threat: Blackwood was caught at short leg by a kneeling Bairstow, before Holder drove a long hop to cover, reducing West Indies to 93-5 with 20 overs to go. But Da Silva settled in, as England’s prospects faded with the light. The Test ended with Brathwaite 56 not out, looking relaxed as he walked off, and ready to bat another 15 hours. The series rested on Grenada.

Player of the Match: KC Brathwaite.

Report: Nick Hoult.

Third Test at St George’s, Grenada, March 24-27, 2022: West Indies won by 10 wickets

West Indies 12pts. Toss: West Indies.

Report: Tim Wigmore.

Just as they had in the T20 series two months earlier, West Indies won it at the last. The lap of honour in front of exultant supporters was led by Brathwaite, who had captained his side magnificently throughout the three Tests, and was the main reason they arrived in Grenada with the series level. With West Indies’ meagre target of 28 in sight, he finally allowed himself a flourish, hitting Mahmood for consecutive fours – a clip through square leg and an emphatic cut – before tucking Woakes for the winning runs. Brathwaite raised his arms aloft, toasting his first home series victory as skipper. He had scored most runs in the series – 341 at 85 – and faced 337 more balls than Root, the next most durable batsman.

Twenty-four hours before the game, Root had hailed the resilience of England’s batting in Antigua and Barbados: “The most pleasing thing is we’ve not had that nightmare session that’s cost us a Test.” To those who had observed his team over the previous year, his words seemed to portend a collapse. Still, even pessimists could scarcely have imagined quite how much a pitch with a green tinge would disorientate England, whose supposed improvement immediately looked like a mirage.

The first dismissal encapsulated England’s malaise: after seven dot balls from Mayers, Crawley chipped a delivery floated outside off stump to short cover. A combination of more bowler-friendly conditions and higher stakes ramped up the challenge. Yet only one member of the top seven, the stoic Lees, mustered double figures. While West Indies’ bowling was remorseless, England’s batting was slapdash: Root pushed at a delivery angled in from Mayers he could have left, echoing several of his dismissals in Australia; Lawrence played across the line to a Seales inswinger; Stokes, bogged down, pulled a short delivery back to Joseph.

In the first two Tests, the fall of England wickets had largely been greeted by silence. In Grenada, the locals more than matched the travelling support. At 114-9, England looked even more outnumbered on the pitch. But it became appreciably easier to bat as the Dukes ball softened. West Indies dropped both Leach and Mahmood early on, and the last-wicket pair showed judgment and discipline lacking among their top-order teammates. Normally, partnerships between the Nos.10 and 11 are rollicking affairs, but Leach and Mahmood – abetted by Brathwaite bowling his part-time off-breaks – accumulated at 2.5 an over. Only when Mahmood, who drove with authority down the ground, was within sight of a maiden first-class half-century in his maiden Test innings did he misplace his equilibrium, bowled trying to hack Blackwood.

But, in adding 90 with Leach, he had hauled England up to 204 – a total that seemed below par yet was also hard to gauge, given the peculiarities of the surface and the frailties of both sides. For the first time in a Test innings, the No. 11 had produced the highest score, and the No. 10 the second-highest. Mahmood, meanwhile, was the second England No. 11 to top-score in a Test innings, after Steve Harmison, who made 42 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2004/05.

At the very least, the stand seemed to have given England a template for the discipline needed. But in their second innings, they were unable to use it. This time, Leach and Mahmood were united with England 116-9 but added only four. Without a functioning top order, they were a line-up reduced to waiting for miracles.

While their collapses evoked generations past, the architect of their downfall did not: Mayers, who recorded astounding match figures of 7-31 from 27 overs, never reached 80mph. Yet while it was tempting to describe him as a Caribbean Darren Stevens, the caricature ignored his ability to swing and seam the ball both ways, and vary his angle, at a full 10mph more than Stevens. Mayers had been brought in at his old home venue to exploit the extra seam movement the ground offers. He was on early in both innings, and bowled with an unrelenting accuracy that England’s seamers had lacked. After Root was snared in the second, playing at a delivery away from his body, both Lawrence and Stokes fell offering no shot, as Mayers cannily varied his release point. He returned on the third evening to end any delusions that England could recover: first with an outstanding throw from square leg to run out Foakes, attempting a madcap second from his fourth ball, then to remove Lees, bowled by one that kept low for another obdurate 31, and Overton, driving tamely to the slips. That meant a first Test five-for.

But Mayers’s extraordinary return should not obscure the efforts of his team-mates. Joseph, Roach and Holder – even though he was wicketless – all bowled more quickly than in the first two Tests, while Seales’s swing and exemplary length added to the sense that, aged 20, he ranks among the most exciting pace-bowling talents in the world.

Between their batting struggles, England restricted Brathwaite to 17, lbw to a ball that kept low from Stokes, sparking a dramatic West Indies collapse. Thanks to more glimpses of uneven bounce, an impressive spell of short-pitched bowling from Woakes and shoddy shot selection – Holder hooked his third ball to square leg – West Indies slumped from 50 without loss to 95-6, then 128-7. England seemed on course for a useful lead, and the chance to bat them out of the game. When Joseph edged his third ball, from Mahmood, towards the cordon, it might have been 129-8. Instead, the ball went for four; Root belatedly added another slip.

Despite having only the tail for company, Da Silva later explained that his approach was “to bat as long as I could… I got a lot of stick out there for having a low strike-rate, but it didn’t matter to me.” After 86 balls, he had just 13, and he was outscored by Joseph during an eighth-wicket stand of 49. But Da Silva recognised that the pitch had become easier to bat on – and, at the end of an intense tour and exhausting winter, that England’s vulnerabilities would grow if they were kept in the field.

He put on a further 68 with Roach, and had 65 by the time Seales, his Queen’s Park club-mate in Trinidad, joined him on the third morning, with West Indies’ lead 41. While Da Silva tried to manipulate the strike, he continued to bat as if in a straitjacket. Before lunch, he finally accelerated, attacking Leach, then launching Overton down the boundary for consecutive fours to reach his maiden century, greeted by a flood of tears. For its bloody-mindedness, resilience and guts – a bouncer from Woakes forced him to wear strapping on his hand – Da Silva’s innings was worthy of winning any Test series. No one else on either side scored even a half-century.

England had already burned their reviews, so they could not refer Mahmood’s lbw shout before Seales had scored. DRS would have backed them up; instead, the last-wicket pair put on 52. But, to many, the tourists’ greatest folly lay off the pitch. One poster in the crowd read: “Thank you Strauss, for omitting Broad & Anderson – from West Indies fans.”

Meanwhile, West Indies’ first-innings collapse obscured how badly England had wasted the new ball: 12 of Woakes’s opening 18 deliveries were left alone, and another two drifted invitingly on to Campbell’s pads. Given the opportunity to lead the attack, he did not take a wicket in his first spell all series. When Woakes bowled in the fourth innings, defending a pitiful target, the locals playfully sang “London Bridge is falling down”. As they looked up from this picturesque ground, England’s beleaguered side could see Cemetery Hill: not for the first time, the Caribbean proved a graveyard for English ambitions. Their record in the West Indies now amounted to one Test series victory – in 2003/04 – in the past 11, and only three ever.

A jubilant Da Silva ran on to the field, congratulated his team-mates, and distributed the stumps. It seemed a shame victory arrived as early as 11.28 on Sunday, but no matter: hundreds of locals remained in the ground for several hours to celebrate the result, with the help of the steel bands.

Player of the Match: JM Da Silva.
Player of the Series: KC Brathwaite.