ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook hailed the display of Jos Buttler, whose superb maiden international century proved in vain as the hosts fell to a narrow defeat at Lord's in the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka.
And Cook also paid tribute to a fine cameo from his Essex team-mate Ravi Bopara who made 51 as he and Buttler breathed new life into a labouring England run chase.
Buttler's wonderful 121 was a worthy response to Kumar Sangakkara's hundred, and carried England to within a whisker of an amazing victory after Sangakkara had powered the tourists to 300 for nine, largely in partnership with Tillakaratne Dilshan (71).
England stumbled badly in pursuit of their joint second-highest run chase in this format, but Buttler and Bopara refused to give up in a stand of 133, having joined forces for the sixth wicket with 190 runs still required at more than nine an over.
“It was looking pretty bleak before those two got going,” Cook said. “It was a great partnership. When you're chasing 300 at Lord's, it's very hard to defend. We didn't quite get the first 20 overs right.
"That partnership was fantastic. It just couldn't quite get us there. We know what a special talent Jos is. The way he batted was brilliant.
"Jos played so well. He doesn't deserve to be on the losing side."
Cook acknowledged his team were always up against it after losing both openers - himself and Ian Bell - within the opening four overs.
"When you lose two wickets in the first couple of overs, there's always going to be some rebuilding," he said. "We know we have to play those first 30 overs better to chase down 300. Those outstanding innings that we're getting at the death, they're to get us above par score or to chase it down."
Man of the match Buttler added: “That’s definitely the best I've ever played. Obviously it's brilliant to play that well, but just disappointing to not get over line.
"Me and Ravi just had some fun. We knew we were miles behind and that gave us the licence to play how we wanted. As that partnership built, we thought we had the game.
"Then unfortunately we lost Ravi, and when someone likes Malinga comes back at the end it's always hard."