Alastair Cook of England during day 5 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and England at PPC Newlands in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Alastair Cook of England during day 5 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and England at PPC Newlands in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

ENGLAND are in such a confident mood that their captain Alastair Cook’s goal ahead of the final Test against the Proteas is to improve his run tally.

Cook is just 117 runs from the magical 10,000 Test run mark — something no other Englishman has achieved.

Graham Gooch came closest with 8,900 runs for England in 118 matches, but Cook stands alone at the top of his country’s Test run chart.

Cook must feel that he has missed out on a big total in the four-match series that the visitors wrapped up at the Wanderers last weekend.

Anyone who has played against SA this summer has made hay, whether it be runs, wickets or victories.

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have scored centuries, while Alex Hales, Nick Compton and James Taylor have not been far behind.

Cook has scored 103 runs in six innings in this series thus far.

"We’ve got as much to play for personally as we do as a team, for players who haven’t scored quite the number of runs or taken the amount of wickets they would have liked.

"A lot of runs have been scored by Joe, Ben and Jonny in this series. Other guys, myself included, haven’t quite contributed so we’ve got that opportunity in this game.

"Getting to 10,000 Test runs would be the perfect way to end the series for me ," Cook said.

"At the start of the series, I thought if I played well I could get there, but it hasn’t happened for me at all.

"It would be lovely to score a century and get to that milestone. But you can rest assured that I’ll be concentrating as much on scoring a hundred as setting up the game for England to win," he said.

England’s opening batting pair problems are not on the intensive care levels of those of the Proteas, but Cook would like to see Hales cement his place at the top of the order.

Hales follows Moeen Ali, Adam Lyth, Jonathan Trott and Sam Robson in the lengthening list of openers England have unsuccessfully paired with Cook.

"I think Hales has done OK," said Cook. "He got a good 60 in Cape Town. Hales is one of the guys who will be desperate for a big score and to get his Test career up and running — as always when you come into international cricket and are trying to prove to people that you can play at this level.

"A score does it. I was lucky in my career that I got up and running straight away — I got a hundred in my first match — which instantly gave me a bit of breathing space to then play naturally.

"Guys will also be desperate to shore up their spots so that when the selection meeting happens for the Sri Lanka Test series, they are there."

The captain was also keen to see how his team would respond to the challenge of being ruthless.

The visitors are 2-0 up, with the dead rubber starting at SuperSport Park on Friday to go.