JAMES ANDERSON continued his fairytale dance through history when he added his career-best figures to an astonishing few weeks.
The Lancashire swing bowler took 7-42 as England completed a nine-wicket victory in the final Test of the summer.
It means they win the Investec series 2-1 and retain the Wisden Trophy.
The glorious landmarks just keep coming for Anderson who, in the space of little more than a month, has had an end named after him at Old Trafford, reached 500 Test wickets and returned his all-time best figures.
Now let’s wrap Anderson in cotton wool and place him in quarantine to make sure he is 100 per cent fit and healthy for this winter’s Ashes tour.
It is remarkable that, at the age of 35 and 14 years after his Test debut, Anderson is bowling with as much potency as ever. His speeds are up, his skills undiminished.
But even he didn’t receive the loudest cheer of the day. That was accorded to Henry Blofeld, the plummy-voiced Old Etonian who is retiring after 45 years on radio’s Test Match Special, during a rapturous lap of honour wearing a bright lime jacket, pink shirt and fuschia trousers.
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Blofeld’s final two words as a commentator had been “how lovely” which pretty much sums up his view of the game.
Anderson remains England’s dear old thing and finishes with 39 wickets at an average of 14.10 in seven Tests. Only four England bowlers have ever done better in a home summer.
England’s win means they fly to Australia on October 28 having beaten South Africa and West Indies in Joe Root’s first two series in charge. But there are still worries – most notably over the top-order batting and their catching.
England contrived to spill three chances before lunch – Stuart Broad, twice, and Alastair Cook were the guilty men – and that makes a total of 16 drops in the three-match series.
If they repeat that in Australia, they can kiss the Ashes goodbye.
As for the batting, only Cook and Joe Root are certain of a place in England’s top five Down Under but Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley did their causes no harm by scoring 40 not out and 44 not out respectively.
Stoneman and Dawid Malan are near-certainties to be chosen for the Ashes trip but Westley will contest with several others.
he next couple of rounds of county championship matches before the squad is chosen in late September could be crucial.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss said: “There are two or three positions that will take more discussion than the others but I can’t see us going outside the people who have played in the last 12-18 months.”
Anderson took his 500th wicket at 5.18 on Friday afternoon and, within 21 hours, had raised his tally to 506. Instead of being diminished by the emotion he admitted he felt the previous day, he was inspired.
Of the seven wickets he took in West Indies second innings, four were bowled and the other three caught behind by Jonny Bairstow.
His figures of 7-42 were one run better than the 7-43 he managed against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 2008. With helpful conditions aiding his swing and seam movement, any batting line-up in the world would have struggled to resist him.
Anderson had Roston Chase taken almost immediately yesterday morning. Jermaine Blackwood lived dangerously – he was badly dropped by Broad at mid-off and then given out lbw to Broad only for DRS to detect an inside edge – but still managed only five runs before also being caught by Bairstow.
Broad dropped another catch – a caught and bowled offered by Shane Dowrich – before the Windies wicketkeeper mis-pulled Toby Roland-Jones to mid-on, where this time Broad held the catch.
Shai Hope, the Windies’ best batsman, also nicked off and then Cook at second slip dropped Jason Holder off Root from the final ball before lunch.
Anderson held a catch to give Broad his second wicket of the innings and he also bowled Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach.
Skipper Holder admitted: “Anderson is a quality bowler and he’s difficult for most teams to face when he’s bowling like that. Trying to combat him is not easy in these conditions.”
Having dismissed West Indies for 177 in their second innings, England needed just 107 runs to win. Cook was lbw to leg-spinner Bishoo’s first ball of the match but Stoneman and Westley batted comfortably enough.