Captain Alastair Cook hailed a ‘perfect win’ from his side as England ended a 10-match winless streak and levelled the Test series with an emphatic 266-run victory over India at the Ageas Bowl.
Cook’s position as captain has come under increasing scrutiny after series defeats to Australia and Sri Lanka but he answered some of his critics with an inspirational batting and captaincy performance in Southampton.
Scores of 95 and 70 not out helped England set India 445 for victory, a target they fell well short of as Moeen Ali’s career-best 6-67 saw the tourists bundled out for 178 before lunch on the final day.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton at the post-match presentation, Cook, asked if he was relieved to finally taste victory, said: “I don’t think it’s ‘relieved’, ‘happy’ is a better word!
“It was a great performance from day one. We pretty much won every session, well we didn’t lose a session, and that’s credit to the guys.
“People stood up. Every single one of the XI who played has contributed to a great win. We wanted to get on the wicket first and bat well, getting 570 was a great start, then we bowled them out, put pressure on them, batted quickly then bowled them out cheaply so yes, it was the perfect game!”
Cook reserved special praise for Worcestershire spinner Ali, who ripped through India’s middle and lower order on the final day to leave the series fascinatingly-poised with two Tests remaining.
Cook added: “His bowling has come on leaps and bounds from the beginning of the summer. He’s worked really hard on it with the guys in the nets, telling him about the lines to bowl, which are a bit different in international cricket.
“He’s responded incredibly well and on a spinning wicket to get six-for to win the game you couldn’t ask for any more.”
Commenting on his own performance, Cook was delighted to finally contribute significantly with the bat.
“I said at Lord’s that I thought my game was heading back in the right direction and with a 10 and a 20 it’s probably a strange thing to say but to back it up I was incredibly pleased,” he said.
“I was frustrated not to get a hundred in the first-innings but I’ll take 160 runs in a game.”
Cook also thanked the home fans, who turned out in decent numbers despite the unique Sunday start.
“It was obviously a tough Test match with it being on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays when we don’t usually play but the support, especially walking out on Sunday, I’ll never forget the reception I got walking off at lunch.
“I want to thank Southampton. It’s been a fantastic week.”