Cook shows captaincy credentials
If Alastair Cook really meant it when he said he wasn't motivated "to prove anyone wrong" then he has a strange way of going about things. A 3-2 victory and a Man-of-the-Series award concluded a four-day period that couldn't have gone much better for Cook.
A series defeat against Sri Lanka, the World Cup runners-up, wouldn't have been calamitous for Cook, especially if he'd made the runs he did, but the pressure would have been increased a few notches. Now, though, he has his second one-day trophy as ODI captain, following the win in Bangladesh last year, and can look forward with confidence to the challenges ahead, after a period back under Andrew Strauss' leadership in the Test team.
While showing that he can translate his Test batting form into the one-day game with 298 runs at a strike-rate of 96.75 in the series, Cook also displayed, during the deciding game at Old Trafford, his tactical acumen in the field. With three frontline quicks and two spinners to rotate while defending 268 there wasn't much room for a wrong call, particularly after Sri Lanka twice recovered through Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews; but Cook got it all right.
That came right down to giving Jade Dernbach, preferred to the struggling Stuart Broad, the 49th over, with 17 needed off 12 balls after Lasith Malinga had launched James Anderson for a six. Dernbach was in just his fifth ODI but pulled out his trademark slower ball which Mathews spooned to short third man, and then gave Malinga a taste of his own medicine with a swinging yorker.
"He has bowled really well at the death, and one of the main reasons he's been brought into that side is because of the skills he has - and you saw it at the end there, a slower ball followed by a yorker," Cook said. "We need everyone to be able to do that. He's bowled very well in pressure situations and in Powerplays.
"That's the first time I've had a really tight scenario in my eight games as one-day captain, and I thought we handled it well. The way we committed to what ball we wanted to bowl and were very clear in how we want to bowl was very pleasing."
At the start of the 35th over it appeared Cook was about to give Kevin Pietersen an over to give him some leeway later in the innings. But Sri Lanka took the batting Powerplay and Cook opted to return to Tim Bresnan and Dernbach. The visitors made 37 runs and didn't lose a wicket, but Cook was confident England could hold on with Graeme Swann and Samit Patel having overs left.
"Once we got through that Powerplay and they still needed seven-and-a-half an over and we had five overs of spin, I was quite confident. But we needed to get Mathews."
It was also a match which showed how vital it is to use up 50 overs after a collapse because the 15 runs added by Anderson and Dernbach off the final 11 balls of England's innings proved the difference. "From the position we got ourselves into, 213 for 3, we would have liked 280 or 290," Cook said. "But we are being critical - because 270 on that wicket was a very good score - and that little partnership at the end got us there."
Even though Cook has insisted there are no personal agendas for him there was more than a hint of satisfaction at what had been achieved, especially in the light of the growing criticism after England's performance at Lord's last week.
"Everyone was writing us off, and we've played well in these past two games in all conditions; on spinning wickets and flat wickets," he said. "When you pull on an England shirt, people are always going to have their own opinions.
"I don't do it to prove anyone wrong. I do it for the satisfaction that we got in that final half-hour of the game, and you can't replicate that. That's why you play the game. I think the most pleasing aspect is the way we fought back from 2-1 down in the series."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo