England v Sri Lanka: Dark days long behind Alastair Cook as he prepares to make history in Headingley Test opener

ALASTAIR COOK admits that it will mean the world to him to become the first Englishman to reach the magic 10,000 Test runs milestone '“ with history beckoning for the England captain at Headingley.

England's Alastair Cook during a press conference at Headingley on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA.

A White Rose crowd are hoping to witness a magical moment during England’s summer Test opener against Sri Lanka – which starts this morning – with Cook requiring just 36 runs to achieve that major individual feat.

The 31-year-old could become the youngest player to reach the 10,000 run barrier in the process as he strives to follow in the footsteps of a who’s who of iconic Test greats, including Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Brian Lara.

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Others to have achieved that accomplishment are Kumar Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, Sunil Gavaskar, Jacques Kallis, Allan Border and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

England's Jake Ball (left), Joe Root (centre) and Steven Finn during an indoor nets session at Headingley on Wednesday. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA.

Cook, seeking to only becoming the 12th player to join that exclusive club, said: “Those guys are far better battsmen than me. But it will be a nice moment and you get to join an elite band of Test cricketers.

“If the moment does come this week, it would be a great moment personally.

“You’d be lying if you were said you were not thinking about it. Can I put it to the back of my mind and focus at the top of the mark? I am pretty sure I can.”

Cook’s prospective sweet moment at Leeds would be a far cry from one of his darkest days as England captain against the same opposition and at the same venue back in 2014. The hosts lost to a side rated seventh in the International Cricket Council Test rankings at the time, the tourists winning with just a ball to spare.

England's Jake Ball (left), Joe Root (centre) and Steven Finn during an indoor nets session at Headingley on Wednesday. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA.

Cook, who faced calls for his resignation after that grave loss: added: “The fourth night of that game was the lowest I have felt as England captain. That was as dark a time as I can remember.

“It was a game of fine margins and Sri Lanka came out on top and thoroughly deserved it. It was a real tough moment for me as a captain, there is no doubt, but I am glad I hung in there for what’s happened since.”

Thankfully, the present-day England led by Cook are in a much better place after reclaiming the Ashes last summer and winning the winter series in South Africa. And they face new-look tourists shorn of the talismanic influences of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

England’s own man of the moment in Joe Root – named this week as England’s Test Cricketer of the Year – will be afforded star billing for home supporters alongside another Yorkshireman in Jonny Bairstow.

The pair head into the game in fine fettle, fresh from putting on a record 372 for Yorkshire’s fourth wicket against Surrey at Leeds last week.

Steven Finnwill start ahead of Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball in England’s pace attack, while Hampshire’s James Vince is set to make his debut at No 5.

Start of new era, says Angelo Mathews: Page 23.