Captain Alastair Cook was left feeling “pretty good” after England finally beat Australia for the first time on their troubled tour Down Under.
A 57-run win in the fourth one-day international in Perth ended England’s miserable record this winter after 91 fruitless days traversing across Australia.
Man of the match Ben Stokes hit 70 and took 4-38 as Cook’s side defended 316-8 – their highest score on Australian soil – and avoided a record-equalling 10th consecutive loss.
Opener Aaron Finch hit his second century of the series in pursuit, but Australia were bowled out for 259 in 47.4 overs to ensure the prospect of a double-whitewash tour was ended.
“It feels pretty good to be honest with you,” Cook said.
“It’s been a long time coming on this tour. We know the series is gone, but there was a thought of losing 10-0 – the prospect was there at the start of play. We played a pretty good game.”
Cook stated before the start of play that he was “desperate” to remain as England captain following a week of uncertainty.
The 29-year-old inflicted that upon himself after suggesting he was considering his position immediately after the series was lost in Sydney six days ago.
But after speaking with his team-mates, who have publicly backed him in midweek, Cook is certain he wants to stay on and continue preparations ahead of next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“I think what I’ve learned over three years as a one-day captain (is) it would be wrong so close to a World Cup to change,” he said.
“We are getting some very valuable experience here of conditions which we are going to play in during the World Cup. If I am still given the opportunity then I’d like to be (captain).”
Cook admitted his comments last week had come in the heat of a defeat, adding: “I spoke what I was feeling and sometimes you probably shouldn’t do that but I did. We can move on from it.
“In the last four or five days I have done quite a lot of talking to some of the guys. Sometimes you do need a bit of reassurance when you’ve lost a lot of games on a tour.
“When you chat to some guys you trust and you respect what they’re thinking it gives you the confidence.”
Cook took heart also in the performance of his young players, most significantly Stokes and Jos Buttler, who smashed 71 from 43 balls to push England well beyond 300.
For Stokes, victory was especially enjoyable after he had been targeted in the dramatic one-wicket defeat in Brisbane a week ago, when Australia chased down 300.
The Durham all-rounder this time claimed three important late wickets, including Australia’s Gabba hero James Faulkner.
“The thing I like about Stokesy is he had a tough last over in Brisbane when he didn’t get it right but there was no stopping him (yesterday) wanting to bowl in those last 10 (overs),” Cook said.
“He improved from Brisbane. If he keeps on that learning curve and dusts himself off when it doesn’t go well he’s going to be a hell of a cricketer.”
Wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler’s impact was no less important as he crashed four sixes and six fours, before his fifth catch with the gloves completed victory.
“I’ve seen him do that a huge amount of times for Somerset,” Cook said. “He’ll be first to admit it took him a little bit of time to find his feet in international cricket but he’s growing all the time. The game is very different to the county game and what had impressed me is how he’s adapted his shots to be able to still do the damage at the end.”
Stand-in Australia captain George Bailey admitted the absence of four key players had made a difference.
Regular captain Michael Clarke, David Warner, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were rested as Australia begin their preparations for their tour of South Africa next month.
Bailey believes that was an understandable move – Clarke and Watson are due to return for the series-finale in Adelaide tomorrow – despite the prospect of a double-whitewash being ended.
“It does make a difference. (But) there’s some huge series coming up especially that Test series in South Africa,” he said. “I don’t think any players have an issue that those guys had earned a rest.
“I’m surprised that Pup (Clarke) is coming back after missing just the one as far as the job being done winning the series.
“You want to win every game but given how crammed the schedule is, if you do get the opportunity to rest guys you take it.”