Joe Root could captain England until he is 40 and never emerge with as much credit as he will receive here both for salvaging his side’s pride and doing wonders for cricket’s all too often tarnished image.
It will be the 232-run final Test win, completed within four days, and his 16th Test century, that Root will want to remember from St Lucia at the end of a series England had lost in seven horrific days in Barbados and Antigua.
Yet for the cricket world and all those outside it who rushed to praise Root it will be his spontaneous response to what were clearly inappropriate comments from Shannon Gabriel on the third evening that will be the abiding third Test memory.
West Indies celebrate their series victory despite a heavy 232-run defeat in the third Test
Joe Root shakes hands with Shannon Gabriel after England confirmed their victory
Ben Stokes took the final two wickets as England finally saw off the West Indies tail on day four
Moeen Ali celebrates with Jimmy Anderson after taking three wickets on day four
Roston Chase takes the applause of the crowd after reaching a defiant century on day four
England celebrate the wicket of Shane Dowrich, caught by Ben Stokes in his armpit
The ICC have for once shown decisive leadership by charging Gabriel but it was only when St Lucia woke up on Tuesday to widespread praise for Root and condemnation for the intrusion of homophobia into Test cricket that the umpires and match referee seemed to wake up to the affair.
That should not concern Root. He has handled himself impeccably throughout and stood firm again when Roston Chase was holding England up with some hearty hitting in an unbeaten century that at least ensured West Indies went down fighting.
It was Jimmy Anderson who put England on the path to victory with a three-wicket burst after Root had declared with a massive lead of 484 but it was Mark Wood, a little slower on day four but still quick enough, who was man of the match for his breathtakingly quick first innings rockets.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever stood that far back at slip before,’ said Root afterwards. ‘And I’m still nursing a hole in my hand from the first one I clung on to. But he’s a great story and he should be really proud of what he did this week.’
Jonny Bairstow removes the bails and the stumps as Shimron Hetmyer is run out after lunch
Mark Wood celebrates after taking his sixth wicket of the match as England marched to victory
Jimmy Anderson ripped through the West Indies top order with three wickets before lunch
That it took England until the third Test to get the right balance to their side, the correct tempo to their batting and the right personnel in their attack is a huge frustration but they are back on track now for a certain series this summer.
England almost have their Ashes team in place. For all the uncertainty over what seemed a confused selection for this Test, mainly the recall of Keaton Jennings, they have returned to basics, as Nasser Hussain urged them to do, and put round pegs into round holes.
An attack of Anderson, Stuart Broad, luckless again, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and a rejuvenated Wood (or, fitness permitting, Chris Woakes) with Jack Leach in reserve should be more than enough to bowl Australia out twice in English conditions.
And there is enough batting power in Root, Jos Buttler, Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen at four, five, six, seven and eight to put big runs on the board and, ideally, bat responsibly enough to stop those extreme collapses.
It is just the top three, then, that needs to be sorted and it is there England still have real problems. A personal preference would be for the captain to move up to three, Bairstow to four and the gloves back in the hands of the world-class keeper-batsman in Ben Foakes at seven.
At least that would bring the search down to the openers – Rory Burns has one foot in place but still needs to do more – even though Bairstow would again be moved away from his favourite position.
Yes, he kept brilliantly here and has the ability to be England’s modern Matt Prior but needs must and Foakes is too good to leave out.
Ben Stokes added some quick runs in the morning as England pushed towards a declaration
For now England will be relieved by this commanding performance in Trevor Bayliss’s last away Test as coach, Anderson proving the pick of the attack and Moeen going past Tony Lock into fourth place in England’s hall of Test spinning fame with three wickets of his own.
It was the man who spun West Indies to their shock win in Barbados in Chase who lifted them from 110 for six to 252 before Stokes had the final word in dismissing the injured Keemo Paul. But this was how it was expected to be here.
West Indies thoroughly deserved to win the Wisden Trophy but they now have to make sure Gabriel, who was booed when he came on to bowl by England supporters and then serenaded with YMCA by the Barmy Army when he batted, sees the error of his ways.
Let’s get one thing clear. There is no excuse for Gabriel to use a term that rightly has no place in modern language.
This cannot be put down to cultural differences nor the unacceptable reality that homosexuality is still illegal in St Lucia and other parts of the Caribbean.
Sad fact is, this has tarnished what has been a momentous series for West Indies.
But, crucially, it has been a momentous end to it for the sporting statesman that Joe Root has become. And that has made up for much of what England suffered in two calamitous Tests here before this one.