England triumphant after 31 years
England form a guard of honour for Curtly Ambrose
Photo © AllSport UK
An hour after England's cricketers had formed a guard of honour for Curtly Ambrose in his farewell Test Match, the Wisden Trophy had changed hands for the first time in 27 years.
England's victory by 158 runs, so thoroughly deserved, gave them the series 3-1 in a summer which brought victory in all three challenges that confronted them.
There are signs that the tide has turned after so many disappointments. It may be too early to say if this is a total revival of English cricket but it is clearly moving in the right direction. There seems to be a good combination of players, even if there remains a dearth of world-class spinners, and so importantly, there's great team spirit.
Some of the credit must go to Duncan Fletcher who took over as coach only last winter and has put together an efficient, confident squad. It was no surprise to hear the England captain, Nasser Hussain say: "Duncan is easily the best coach that I have been involved with. He is just a calming influence and knows the right things to say and when to say them."
Darren Gough, England's player of the series, also said: "When he says something everybody listens. If you have done badly he comes and talks to you and explains why, and does the same when you do well."
England's victory on this final day was not unexpected. It would have caused amazement if the West Indies had scored the required 341 to win the Test and draw the series. The tourists did start in quest of the target but they were rocked back on their heels when both opening batsmen fell at 50.
The partnership to give them headway was between Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan. In 38 minutes they put on 46, and they would have kept accelerating but for Sarwan's run out.
Ten runs later when Lara was seventh out, trapped leg before wicket by Gough, England's victory became a formality. Ambrose had a late flourish for the final time in a Test but there was no such fun for Courtney Walsh, who had also received a guard of honour as he came to the crease.
When Walsh, West Indies' player of the series and winner of the Malcolm Marshall Memorial Trophy for taking the highest number of wickets in this series, was dismissed without scoring, it was all over, leaving an ecstatic England team and its supporters to savour the moment.
Hussain said: " It's been a very fulfilling summer. I am very proud of my team. They have worked hard and we said at the beginning of the summer that we had a chance of doing something special. We have thought so much about winning this trophy."
Referring to the winter tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Hussain added: " The task ahead is huge but this is what the team needs and it will make us into a stronger side."
West Indies captain, Jimmy Adams, admitted: " England were mentally tougher than we were over the last three months. We have been too inconsistent."
31 years has been a long time to wait for victory over a team that dominated world cricket for nearly two decades, but England can start looking for brighter times ahead.