Cook heads north in need of runs

Blackpool Citizen: England captain Alastair Cook is eager to get among the runs at Headingley England captain Alastair Cook is eager to get among the runs at Headingley

Alastair Cook will head to Headingley encouraged by England's performance after their Lord's nail-biter, but in urgent need of runs himself as he seeks to lead from the front.

Cook's 17 and 28 provided none of the headlines at HQ - where Joe Root's unbeaten 200, Gary Ballance's maiden Test century and then a thrilling finish did so instead.

The captain's lot continued a sequence of 22 Test innings over the past year without a hundred of his own.

As he reflected on England's agonising near miss in the first Investec Test - Stuart Broad had five deliveries at last man Nuwan Pradeep, and thought fleetingly he had him lbw to win the match before an lbw verdict was rightly overturned by DRS - Cook admitted he could do with a few runs in Leeds' potential decider.

For the first time in 14 Tests, stretching back to March 2013, England passed 400 in their first innings.

Thanks to Root and selected others, in fact, they scaled the heights of 575 for nine declared.

Opener Cook, however, played little part.

"I'd love a score," he said, after Sri Lanka had closed out the stalemate after all on 201 for nine.

"Leading from the front as a captain, you want to score runs - that's your job as a batter.

"The longer it goes on, the harder it gets ...

"But it's great to see Rooty back to his best, and it definitely showed the value of big runs in the first innings."

Only a surge of late wickets from James Anderson and then Broad gave England their shot at victory, in a match which long seemed destined for a much more mundane stalemate.

"We were ahead throughout the game," added Cook.

"We've made a lot of the running in this Test match.

"A lot of the guys can take a lot of credit, for the way we batted as a unit, and obviously Rooty was outstanding, with a double-hundred, and Gary showed his class at international level.

"That will be great for his confidence."

England's punt, pushing Ballance up to number three despite his lack of county experience there, was vindicated.

"He looked so comfortable there, he's got a very solid technique, what you need at number three," said Cook.

"I think you saw it here, when he soaked up a lot of pressure, and then he has got that expansion of the game.

"To me, he looked that fit at number three. We took that bit of a gamble, and it's paid off. He looks a class player."

Cook, and Root now hope the collective batting travails which afflicted England in their Ashes whitewash last winter may be over.

The captain said: "One guy has scored a hundred, another a double-hundred, and Belly (Ian Bell) is going to play his 100th Test, so I hope if everyone stays fit and well for this summer, they can find their feet."

Asked a similar question, man of the match Root said: "I'd like to think so.

"To score 500 in the first innings is massive, something we've not done for a while, and to score at the rate we did is going to give us a lot of confidence going to Headingley."

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