Alastair Cook became England’s highest-ever run-scorer in Test cricket when he broke the record of batting mentor Graham Gooch during the second Test against New Zealand at Headingley on Saturday.
But after stumps the stoical opening batsman said the way he batted meant he “didn’t deserve” the record.
The 30-year-old left-handed opener started England’s reply to New Zealand’s first innings 350 on Saturday needing just 32 more runs to surpass Gooch’s mark of 8,900 runs in 118 Tests.
Cook, first coached by ex-England captain Gooch as a schoolboy, reached lunch unbeaten on 27.
Then, to his 13th ball after lunch, Cook passed Essex predecessor Gooch – whose runs came in four more Tests (118 to 114) – when he square-drove Tim Southee for four to break a record that had stood for nearly 22 years.
“It is a very special day for me personally. I can’t really describe it, to be on top of the list. I don’t deserve to be there with the way I play,” Cook told Sky Sports.
“You don’t play for the records, but I know I needed 32 runs but to break the record, you want to do it with an innings (that matters). It was an amazing moment, very humbling.”
Cook went nearly two years without a Test century and in that period, as well as his own loss of form, he had to cope with a 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia, the ensuing controversy over Kevin Pietersen’s international exile, his axing from England’s World Cup squad and the sacking of coach Peter Moores.
“The last 18 months have been tough personally as a captain,” said Cook.
“A lot of stuff has gone on the last four or five months, but I have given time to my game and I feel like it is going well.”
Cook was eventually out for 75, lbw to off-spinner Mark Craig on the sweep after the tourists overturned Indian umpire S Ravi’s original not out decision to end a first-wicket stand with Adam Lyth worth 177.
The skipper batted for nearly four hours and faced 187 balls including 12 fours.
By going past Gooch, Cook moved up to 13th place on the all-time list of leading run-scorers in Test cricket, where retired India great Sachin Tendulkar remains way out in front with 15,921 runs in 200 matches.