James Anderson is the greatest England cricketer: Alastair Cook
James Anderson and Alastair Cook leave the field after England's win. @AFP

A fairytale ending to his record-setting England Test career has given Alastair Cook  plenty of joy, which included scoring a century in his last Test – the fifth batsman to do so after scoring one on debut too – to help beat India by 118 runs at Kia Oval and thus make it 4-1 in the home team’s favour.

Equally special for the outgoing Cook was being on the field when the last wicket fell to James Anderson, which made his good friend the most successful fast bowler in Test history and prompted him to term Anderson “England’s greatest cricketer”.

“It has been the most amazing week,” said a beaming Cook after accepting the Man-of-the-Match award on Tuesday. “I got a text from Beefy (Ian Botham) and he said “Can I have your script writer?” The memories shared with my team is what I’ll miss the most. Some very good moments. Today it showed how tough Test cricket can be. I leave with great memories.”

Since their careers overlapped with Cook’s debut in India in 2006 – a series which England drew 1-1 with Anderson playing a key role in victory in Mumbai – Cook and Anderson have been at the forefront of many Test wins which helped England become No 1 in the format.

Cook, 33, was in awe of what Anderson, 36, had achieved and called him a “freak” for his longevity. Anderson made history during the 14th over of a spell in which he bowled nine maidens and conceded just 12 runs.

“To see Jimmy go past Glenn McGrath was brilliant. Just has been a privilege to have played with England’s greatest cricketer,” he said. “No disrespect to any other cricketer. He almost takes it for granted that he will hit the length from ball one. It is fitting that he got the last wicket.

“Everyone was saying to me to get my hands ready, we thought the cricketing gods might give us c Cook b Anderson one last time. I can’t describe what Jimmy must go through to do what he does. At tea he said “I think I’m in for a long spell here”. He’s the best cricketer England have ever produced. He’s an absolute freak. It’s been a pleasure to stand at slip for him.”

For Cook, as he heads into retirement from international cricket, the emotions ran high. “You miss all the highs. I will miss playing for this team. This week can’t be beaten. I can walk away with my head held high,” he said. “It’s been one of the great weeks. What a game of cricket, a great way to go. I can’t believe how tired I was today. I think I’ll sleep for a week and then have a new baby.”