Chester-Le-Street : England captain Alastair Cook praised his side’s determination after a series-clinching win over Sri Lanka.
Monday’s nine-wicket success in the second Test at the Riverside gave England an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match campaign.
The fourth and, as it turned out, final day’s play also saw the 31-year-old Cook become the youngest player, and first from England, to score 10,000 Test runs during his 47 not out.
That he had a second innings was due to some long-awaited Sri Lankan resistance with the bat.
Their first innings 101, made in response to England’s 498 for nine declared featuring Moeen Ali’s Test-best 155 not out, followed equally meagre totals of 91 and 119 during an innings defeat in the first Test at Headingley.
But with Dinesh Chadimal scoring 126 and skipper Angelo Mathews making 80, Sri Lanka’s vastly-improved second innings 475 left England needing 79 for victory.
“The 10,000 has been a milestone that has driven me over the last few years,” said left-handed opener Cook.
“You get tested at the top of the order in all conditions against the best bowlers bowling with the new ball … and I’m glad I have hung around long enough not to get dropped,” added Cook, a veteran of 128 Tests.
As an opener, Cook knows all about the need for mental resilience and he was proud to see England show similar traits.
“It was tough. The pitch died a death and was a bit more like Colombo than the Chester-le-Street we have known in the past,” he said after England recorded their sixth victory in as many Tests at north-east county Durham’s headquarters.
“They (Sri Lanka) made us work hard for it, and sometimes it is a bit sweeter that way because you feel you have earned it. It was a slog today (Monday) and yesterday (Sunday), and James Anderson’s five for 50 in those conditions showed his class,” said Cook after the Lancashire paceman was named man-of-the-match following a haul that included his 450th Test wicket.
Anderson, who has spent the bulk of his Test career alongside Cook, said of his captain’s landmark: “What an amazing achievement. All that hard work, the effort, the lows and highs as well.
“He should treasure it – and to be the youngest to 10,000 is incredible.”
Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, jokingly pointed out how Cook never drinks more than four pints at the bar.
Cook confirmed the limit was still in place, regardless of the fact he’d just made English cricket history.
“Okay, I’ll be having my three-and-a-half pints,” he said.
“One of them will be a (shandy) top … as long as Jimmy buys me one.”
Sri Lanka, although well beaten again, at least restored some pride in a match where spinner Rangana Herath took his 300th Test wicket and made a fifty as well.
“Not scoring more than 100 in the first innings was very disappointing,” said Mathews.
“There were no demons in the wicket. We could have got at least 250 on that wicket to give ourselves a chance in this game. We talked about bringing back the fight — the Sri Lankan fight that we’ve not had in the last couple of weeks.”
Meanwhile Mathews, who played cricket alongside two of the only 12 men who’ve scored 10,000 Test runs — retired Sri Lanka greats Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene — congratulated Cook.
“He’s been an amazing player for England — to get into that club is not at all easy,” Mathews said.
As for the bowlers on both sides who enjoyed landmark matches, Mathews said: “Jimmy Anderson has also been amazing over the past so many years … (and) finally Rangana Herath for taking his 300th wicket.
“They’ve been amazing players for their country.”
Umpire Aleem Dar left the field due to illness midway through Monday’s play. But the experienced Pakistani official is expected to be well enough to fulfil his scheduled TV umpire duties in the third Test at Lord’s starting on June 9.