Cook has 10 000 reasons to smile

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Certainly, when England made Sri Lanka follow on 397 runs behind, Cook would have thought that his big moment would come in front of a full house at Lord’s rather than in pursuit of 79 to win this second Test and the series.

Yet he was a very happy and relieved man when one of his trademark clips through mid-wicket off Nuwan Pradeep at 3.12pm trickled to the boundary and took him to the five runs he had needed to become the youngest man to reach 10,000 in Test cricket.

Cook raised his bat almost sheepishly to the England dressing room and then the 2,579 hardy souls who stood to warmly applaud him. He then shook the hand of Alex Hales before getting back to the business of quietly guiding his side home.

A large banner, provided by the ECB, proclaiming the landmark was unfurled slightly incongruously by a handful of wrapped up spectators congregated at the back of the temporary stand in front of Lumley Castle.

Cook’s young daughter Elsie, oblivious to her father’s achievement, played happily in front of the pavilion with Ben Stokes’s little girl as his wife Alice, who once talked him out of quitting the captaincy, joined in with the applause.

It was an oddly apt way for an understated character who is something of a throwback in this modern, Twenty20-dominated age to join the 11 other batsmen who have scaled these lofty heights. The wait to become the first Englishman to reach a Test tally that is the mark of cricketing greatness has been longer than Cook and England would have envisaged when he started this summer needing just 36 more to make history.

‘I will be glad when I get there so we can start talking about something else,’ said Cook before the first Test at Headingley and there has seemed an unusual anxiousness about him as he has stuttered through the nervous 9,990s.

The England captain is not one for personal milestones but he realised that this was something different, something more important than anything he has achieved as a batsman in his 10-year career in international cricket.

Cook came into this series with three hundreds for Essex behind him this season, but failed in his one innings at Headingley and then fell for just 15 here in the first innings as England piled up two short of 500.

The wait until the final Test of this series at the home of cricket on Thursday week would have seemed interminable had England wrapped this game up, as looked likely, by an innings in three days as they did at Leeds.

Now Cook, who at 31 years and 157 days reached the milestone 169 days younger than previous record-holder Sachin Tendulkar, can get on doing what he does best, churning out runs and leading England back towards the top of the world Test rankings.

There have, of course, been times when it looked as though he would not get this far, notably when a century against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010 saved him from the axe and when his form collapsed as his captaincy was questioned.

But Cook has fought through the bad times that culminated two years ago when the very same Sri Lanka defeated England at Headingley and plunged their captain into a crisis that looked certain to engulf him.

Now he is at the helm of an exciting, young England side who are at the start of a journey which they hope will end with revenge against Australia in 18 months time for that 5-0 Ashes thrashing Down Under.

How apt, too, that a man who was with Cook at the very start of his own international journey should do so much again yesterday to end Sri Lanka’s overdue resistance and set up what became a nine-wicket win.

Jimmy Anderson flew to India with Cook in 2006 as replacements for the full England squad from an A tour of the Caribbean and it was on that long flight that a close friendship was forged that endures to this day.

Now Anderson, England’s leading wicket-taker to Cook’s leading runscorer, was imperious again on a flat Durham pitch to take his third five-wicket haul of this series, moving past 450 wickets in the process.

Thanks to Anderson, Dinesh Chandimal’s first Test century outside Asia and his fighting partnership of 116 with number eight Rangana Herath merely delayed England rather than turned this second Test into a nervous run-chase. It will not do England harm to have to work much harder than imagined for this win and it will certainly not do the image of Test cricket any damage to see Sri Lanka finally providing a proper contest and optimism for another at Lord’s.

There will be concerns about Steven Finn, who was only trusted for three expensive overs yesterday before Sri Lanka were bowled out for 475, and relief that Nick Compton remained unbeaten on 22 as England romped home for the loss of Hales. They will both have another chance to impress at Lord’s. Alongside Compton was Cook, who should now add many more runs to his tally. He is young, fit and hungry enough to challenge Tendulkar’s record of 15,921 Test runs. Why not? He has proved anyone who has doubted him wrong in the past and it would be foolish to question his ability to get there now.

It said everything about Cook that he celebrated the moment of victory, with the sun now shining on England when Compton hit the winning boundary, in far more animated fashion than his own landmark.

For Cook it is all about the team but yesterday was mostly about him. – Daily Mail

Original source: Cook has 10 000 reasons to smile

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