Cook’s tourists wrote an appropriately miserable post-script for their failed campaign, bowled out for 215 in 45.5 overs after Tillakaratne Dilshan (101) had laid the foundations for another home victory to make the final series score 5-2 to Sri Lanka.
Cook has endured a “terrible” time over the past month, on the admission of England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton, and his last attempt went unerringly to script.
And Cook admitted that his team had not shown enough quality on the tour, although he felt there were some signs of hope for the World Cup in the new year.
“It’s been a tough tour in terms of results, we haven’t been good enough in a few areas but people have come through personally,” he said.
“Obviously Joe Root has had an outstanding one-day tour, the way he’s batted. The way Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, in particular, bowled.
“We’ve also learned a lot about certain players for the World Cup.
“The bottom line is we haven’t been good enough. We’ve tried everything, we’ve worked incredibly hard throughout the five weeks here so I can’t fault the lads for that.
“We’ve left everything on the pitch we just haven’t been quite good enough.”
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Sri Lanka piled up 302 for six and England had to become the first team ever to chase such a total in the country – merely to reduce the nature of their series defeat.
Dilshan (three for 37) undermined them from the outset with the wickets of Moeen Ali, bowled by an arm ball for a golden duck, and Alex Hales – caught at long on – and only the continued good form of Root (80) saved even more blushes.
Cook had luck on his side for a very scratchy 32, which included only a smattering of well-timed shots between the edges, before Mahela Jayawardene took a neat catch at slip off Suranga Lakmal to consign him to his tenth successive ODI innings without a half-century.
“We weren’t good enough today,” Cook added. “Obviously Sri Lanka played very well, Dilshan with his hundred set up too many runs for us to chase.”
The captain’s form in the one-day game has come under much scrutiny with many questioning whether he is the right man to lead his country, but Cook remains bullish.
“Again it’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to go on. I haven’t played as well as I’d like this tour,” he said.
“I’m working hard on my game, I’m as hungry as ever to score runs, it hasn’t happened on this tour.
“You dust yourself off and you go again. I’m captain of my country, yes it hasn’t gone well over the last 12 months with my batting in the one-day game but I would feel very wrong to walk away.
“If that decision gets taken out of my hands then I have to hold my hands up and say I haven’t been good enough but until that moment I’ll do what I always do. I’ll work incredibly hard, I’m still incredibly hungry to do it.”
The game marked the final appearances on home soil for Sri Lankan greats Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and Dilshan was quick to heap praise on his veteran team-mates. “I think this is a really good thing just before the World Cup,” he said.
“All the bunches clicking with the youngsters and all the three guys [Jayawardene, Dilshan and Sangakkara] doing really well.
“I think it is the right time to peak before the World Cup, everyone doing really well.
“I’ll really miss them, both great two players, I think it’s amazing, two cricketers we miss for Sri Lanka, but there are still another 10-15 matches to go before the World Cup and we need to take the maximum out of these two guys.”
Skipper Angelo Mathews joined the praise for the pair, adding: “It’s going to be a sad day for all of us.
“The service that they have rendered over the past 15-16 years has been unbelievable.
“The encouragement, the guidance they have given to all of us has been amazing.”
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