A result looked unlikely with England still needing seven wickets after tea but some brilliant seam bowling left the hosts just one short of victory by the end of play.
Stuart Broad thought he had dismissed Nuwan Pradeep to win it with the day’s penultimate ball but Paul Reiffel’s LBW decision was overturned on review, leaving Cook’s side frustrated.
“I can’t praise the lads enough today, that was a flat wicket,” Cook said. “We just had to try and wait for it to reverse swing which took a lot longer than we thought.”
“Once it did Jimmy [Anderson] is just fantastic with a reverse swinging ball and gave ourselves a chance going into the last hour.
“The lads laid everything on the line there and to come up just short is incredibly frustrating but at tea we didn’t think we would get there.”
Cook surprised many by only declaring overnight before the final day but he claimed it was only a late flurry of runs from Gary Ballance on day four that got England up to a comfortable total.
The hosts had struggled early on in their second innings, losing five wickets for 56 runs, a period the skipper admitted cost his side the win.
“I wouldn’t say we took our eye off the ball but they played very well and we were trying to play positively and we gave a couple of wickets away,” he added.
“The way Gary [Ballance] responded by soaking up a bit of pressure and then attacked at the end – that’s what got us up to a score we were happy with.
“Those four or five wickets cost us having half an hour at them at the end of day four.”
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge