It doesn't get much better - Cook
Captain Alastair Cook saluted a “perfect” game for England after they dismantled Sri Lanka in thrillingly ruthless fashion at Trent Bridge to set up a NatWest Series decider.
The hosts triumphed by 10 wickets at Trent Bridge tonight, romping to a Duckworth/Lewis-revised target of 171 in a mere 23.5 overs on the back of Cook’s unbeaten 75-ball 95 and 72 not out off 68 from Craig Kieswetter.
That they had 24.1 overs to spare said everything about England’s superiority on an evening when their performance was nigh on faultless.
“It was pretty much a perfect game,” said Cook. “When you win by 10 wickets and play as well as that, it doesn’t get much better.”
Cook, who hit 16 exquisite fours in a wonderfully entertaining innings, acknowledged that if he had batted better, he could not remember.
If Sunday’s century at Lord’s was a bittersweet affair, coming as it did in a losing cause, Cook could take immeasurably more pleasure from his contribution here.
He not only led England to a win which served as the most emphatic response to the criticism that came their way after two successive defeats, but also demonstrated his ability to score freely in the one-day arena.
“It's very rewarding, for all the hard work I've been putting in,” he said. “I've always known I can play the one-day game; it's just a matter of trying to prove it to people and hopefully a few more innings like that...
“If I can keep batting like that – at that tempo, which I've shown this series – it holds me in good stead.”
Cook made little attempt to disguise his displeasure after Sri Lanka delayed victory at Lord’s to allow Dinesh Chandimal reach three figures.
Cook admitted Kieswetter offered him the chance to do likewise tonight, but he politely declined. Kieswetter duly hit Nuwan Kulasekara for six to tie the scores before clipping him through midwicket for a victory which levelled the series heading into Saturday's finale at Old Trafford.
“He did ask, which is fair enough,” revealed Cook. “But this is the way we want to play our cricket, and proves that the team is always more important than those personal milestones.
“He just said, ‘Shall I look for ones, or hit a six?’ So he hit a six. Everyone enjoys a ‘red ink’, so watching Kiesy hit a six and a one was pleasing.”
A performance which must rank amongst England’s finest in coloured clothing began with James Anderson taking three wickets in his first five overs to reduce Sri Lanka to 20 for four.
Tim Bresnan took a splendid return catch to remove Angelo Mathews' for 39 and end a sixth-wicket stand worth 72 with Kumar Sangakkara, who had made 75 when he became the last of Jade Dernbach's three wickets in 10 balls to mop up the innings.
"The way we bowled up front obviously put us on the front foot, and then I thought that catch Bressy took changed the game because they were getting a partnership going.
"Then the way Jade bowled in the powerplay - an area where we haven't done well and can improve our skills in - was very good as well."
Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan was among Anderson's early victims – he has now scored just 13 runs in four games – a passage of the game which he conceded was crucial.
“He bowled really well, and used the conditions,” Dilshan said of Anderson, who finished with 3-24. “They took three wickets in the first six overs, and it pushed us back after that.
“If somebody had batted really well in the middle order we could have passed 250. Then it might have been a different story.”