5 things we learned from England's win over Sri Lanka in the second Test


After England completed an Investec series victory over Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street, here are five things the second Test told us...

1. Alastair Cook is a phenomenon.

Alastair Cook celebrates after winning the second Test against Sri Lanka
(Richard Sellers/PA)

Well, we knew this one already of course - but it bears repeating after Cook's latest achievement. The England captain has been out on his own as his country's all-time leading Test run-scorer for 12 months. Exactly a year to the day after surpassing his mentor Graham Gooch, he became the first Englishman to five figures. He was relieved, as well as rightly very satisfied, to have got the remarkable milestone out of the way.

Cook will know, though, that conjecture has started already about how many more thousands he can make. The answer is pretty much as many as he wants. He has already beaten Sachin Tendulkar to become the youngest to 10,000, and it is far from impossible he may eventually depose the India great too at the top of the list. Cook will need almost another 6,000 to do that - an achievable eventuality at the rate of 1,000 a year he has established for the past decade. If he manages it, in a future where Test cricket's status - or at least its regularity - is far from assured, the title could be his forever.

2. James Anderson has a few left in him as well.

James Anderson celebrates taking a wicket for England
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

England's all-time leading wicket-taker had to be close to his highly skilled and resourceful best to eke out five more in Sri Lanka's second innings, on an atypical pitch which Cook likened more to Colombo than traditional Chester-le-Street. For his trouble, he took his career aggregate to 451 - and moved to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings for the first time in his outstanding career, usurping his team-mate Stuart Broad.

Asked how many wickets he could end up with, deadpan Anderson was taking nothing for granted when he mumbled a target of 452. At 33, though, he is bowling as well as ever and - like Cook - is very fit. With a fair wind - albeit in some tough climes before Christmas - 500 could be on the cards by the end of the year.

3. May tests may need rethinking.

Empty seats at Chester-le-Street as England face Sri Lanka
(Richard Sellers/PA)

The second Test had much to recommend it - but apart from on day two, it was moderately attended. It has yet to become clear whether Durham's significant investment through the England and Wales Cricket Board's staging policy will pay off financially. Certainly, the cash-strapped county can ill afford anything else.

What is already evident, though, is that it was not such a good look that there were so many empty seats. Fewer early season Tests may be on the agenda once the next television rights agreement is reached from 2020 onwards. In the meantime, May mismatches are simply not pulling in the crowds.

4. Jonny Bairstow was right: there's still work to do.

England's Jonny Bairstow practises his wicketkeeping
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

England's wicketkeeper has been batting on a different level for months, yet has modestly insisted in interview that he must continue working hard - as he has for so long - to stay at the top of his game. It was noticeable back in the first Test at Headingley that, even when he was about to resume on an unbeaten half-century on day two, he was on the outfield for his drills with the gloves.

He has taken 16 catches in two matches - but as ever for the specialist, it is often the ones that get away which are remembered. There were two in the second innings at Chester-le-Street, an awkward wide stumping and an inside edge. Both caused a significant delay to England's victory, but nothing more. On another day, in India next winter for example, it could be a different story.

5. Alastair Cook has his limits after all.

Four people toast with their beers

Only in the bar, though. Even after his 10,000th run, he confirmed he would not be tempted into a fifth pint to celebrate. Three-and-a-half will do, in fact ... one of them a shandy.