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England"s ruthless streak turned India series around – Nasser Hussain

Nasser Hussain: England's new ruthless streak turned series around

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UPDATED:

23:46 GMT, 17 December 2012

The first Test in Ahmedabad may have seen England beaten heavily but the second innings there proved a turning point both in this series and in the future of this team. Without it things could look very different now.

Just look at what had gone on before then. The high of going to No 1 in the Test world last year was followed by a 5-0 one-day thrashing in India, then a 3-0 Test hammering by Pakistan in the UAE followed by a convincing Test series defeat by South Africa last summer and then a very poor performance in spinning conditions in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

All the good vibes about the England cricket team were starting to be questioned.

Ruthless: Stuart Broad was gone from the side after two poor tests

Ruthless: Stuart Broad was gone from the side after two poor tests

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: We have to bring in DRS for all Test matches
16/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Little Master has no answer to the immaculate Anderson
14/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Careless England fail to punish defensive Dhoni and leave the door ajar
13/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Don't let India off the hook now – win and leave them in turmoil
11/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Do Dhoni, Gambhir, Sachin and India legends still have Test hunger
09/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Captain fantastic is allowed to make one slip-up
07/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!
06/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But when Alastair Cook scored a big hundred in a losing cause in Ahmedabad in that second innings things changed. It was the moment the captain said to his team: ‘Hang on, there are no demons here. The ball is not spinning both ways. If we show some character, application and belief we can do this.’ And since then the transformation has been astonishing.

Everything England have done since then has been right. And their business has been conducted in a quite ruthless manner. There has been no dilly-dallying, no worrying about reputations. This has been anything but a closed shop.

Tim Bresnan has been a very good cricketer for England but as soon as Cook and Andy Flower realised they had made a mistake in not picking Monty Panesar for the first Test the Yorkshireman was gone.

Stuart Broad was England’s vice-captain and one of the leading wicket-takers in world cricket in 2012 but when he had two poor Tests and England knew they had to get a fit-again Steven Finn in the side, Broad was also gone.

Samit Patel had not done too much wrong but once it became clear that his bowling was not going to be required with Panesar in the team England took one look at him and said: ‘He’s not one of our best six batsmen.’

And then they overlooked Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan to make another ruthless, and what turned out to be a thoroughly astute, call in picking Joe Root.

England basically had to nail everything to win this series after going one down and they did it. Look at Kevin Pietersen. He was a frenetic wreck in the first Test and only had a couple of days to come up with a defensive technique against his old nemesis, left-arm spin. What happened He went out and smashed 186 in Mumbai.

Good call: Joe Root was brought in for business and it proved a wise decision

Good call: Joe Root was brought in for business and it proved a wise decision

Consider also that this effectively became a three-match series when you look at how poor the wicket in Nagpur was.

Nobody
was going to get a result on that so England had to win in both Mumbai
and Kolkata, which they did in spectacular fashion. Two players stand
out — Cook and Jimmy Anderson. The way the new captain went about his
work was hugely impressive. He is a run machine. Cook would always start
again after a big innings as if he still had everything to prove.

Tour by numbers

Tour by numbers

He was never out straight after an interval or after drinks, as many were in this series, and he always made sure he kicked on after reaching a hundred.

And Anderson was world-class. The deliveries and spells he produced. The hold he had over Sachin Tendulkar. He led the attack with great energy and gusto, and he was not even as grumpy as he can be. Jimmy set the tone and he enjoyed what he did.

India are not the side they were. If I was putting together a composite side from the two teams I would start by picking the whole England attack. England, for once, had better spinners than India in Indian conditions. The tourists were fitter, both physically and mentally, and hungrier for Test cricket. India would not have been able to take four wickets late in a day, after two sessions without a wicket, as England did on Saturday.

India went one up and just thought they could prepare a turning pitch and England would crumble. They showed too much bravado.

And England made them pay very heavily indeed for that.

Picture dispute: We are unable to carry live pictures from the fourth Test in Nagpur due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

Stuart Broad ruled out of final Test in India

Injured Broad to fight his way back after being ruled out of final Test in India

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 12 December 2012

Over the last four years Stuart Broad has been, when fit, one of the first names on England’s team sheet. Now, he is on the outside looking in.

Broad was ruled out of Thursday’s final Test with a recurrence of the heel injury suffered in the second warm-up game.

It is the latest setback for the seamer, who was omitted from the third Test in Kolkata after two wicketless matches. He now faces the biggest challenge of a career that has seen him, at 26, take 172 wickets in 52 Tests.

Blow: Stuart Broad will miss England's final Test in India through injury

Blow: Stuart Broad will miss England's final Test in India through injury

A decision will be made over Broad leading England in the two T20s which follow the Tests but surely he would be better off going home and taking stock.

This tour will go down as his worst. Passed fit for the first Test, he struggled in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and the second Test win was followed by what seemed a kick up the backside from bowling coach David Saker, who said world-class quicks always find a way to get wickets on the subcontinent. Ouch.

Earlier Broad had a Twitter spat with Sir Ian Botham, questioning the right Sky pundits had to criticise him when England had not won a series in India for 28 years. Botham took 13 wickets, and hit 114, in Mumbai in 1980.

Big fan: Andy Flower has faith in Broad but he has not been at his best

Big fan: Andy Flower has faith in Broad but he has not been at his best

Then Broad told the world he was not well during the Mumbai Test; England had denied he was ill. Much of this feistiness is what attracts team director Andy Flower to Broad, who has vowed to work harder than ever to earn his place back.

In 2011, he responded to criticism with some of his best bowling despite three major injuries that year. Even this year, he has 40 wickets. Last week Nasser Hussain said Broad should be a certainty for the 2013 Ashes. Now Broad must prove him right.

Do MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and India still have hunger for Tests? – Nasser Hussain

Do Dhoni, Gambhir, Sachin and India legends still have Test hunger

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UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 9 December 2012

India have big questions to answer in the aftermath of the Kolkata Test and the biggest surrounds the attitude of their near god-like top names.

When the likes of MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and the rest went back to their hotel rooms after that defeat in the third Test, how much were they hurting How much hunger for the long-haul form of the game — with its mental and physical demands — have these multi-millionaire players still got

Are they thinking, deep down, ‘Never mind’, and prioritising instead the fun, glamour and huge financial rewards that come from the Indian Premier League

Plenty to ponder: MS Dhoni

Hungry for more Gautam Gambhir

Plenty to ponder: India captain MS Dhoni (left) and Gautam Gambhir (right)

That is the crux of the issue now for India. The last thing their cricket needs, really, is a win in Nagpur and a share of this series because all that would do is paper over the cracks. They would believe everything is OK.

India left Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh out of their squad for the final Test but it is attitudes as much as personnel that need to change. India will always have some good young players but what kind of cricket will they want to play Will they still dedicate themselves to Test cricket or will they look to that lucrative six-week world of IPL Twenty20 instead

We had the sight, just before England completed their famous victory, of India’s chief selector, Sandeep Patil, being caught on TV having what looked like an animated conversation with their coach Duncan Fletcher.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Captain fantastic is allowed to make one slip-up
07/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!
06/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Warne's Ashes return is an exciting prospect, but Aussies must move on
04/12/12

Nasser Hussain: I'd rest Stuart against India, but he will be back for Ashes
03/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Ricky Ponting was a streetfighter, a panto villain… and a true great
29/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Triumph is thanks to fantastic four… but it's time to have a word with out-of-sorts Broad
26/11/12

Nasser Hussain: 'Public enemy No 1' Pietersen is a genius and he is worth a bit of hassle
25/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

They could have been talking about what they were going to have for lunch for all we know, but it didn’t look like that. It looked like pretty serious stuff, with some finger-jabbing going on from Patil. And Fletcher would have hated that.

When I worked with Duncan for England he hated anything like that being done in public. He even hated us talking team business in the dressing room because he felt any player watching us might think we were talking about them. He liked to conduct his business in private.

Fletcher has a very different job now. When he was England coach he could take people on for the good of the team. He would incur the wrath of many a county chairman because he knew what was best for England and he wasn’t afraid to upset people along the way. And he turned English cricket around with the help of central contracts and the sort of support for the England team that poor David Lloyd could only dream about when he was coach.

Can Fletcher do that now Perhaps if India lose this series 3-1 the public will realise that there needs to be a shake-up and support Duncan’s attempts to do that, for what is happening in Indian cricket is not Fletcher’s fault. Remember, they have lost two great players in Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, while the greatest of them all, Sachin Tendulkar, is not what he was.

Fletcher will want to look into the eyes of Dhoni, Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and even Tendulkar to see how much hunger they have.

The day that hunger goes is the day they will have to step down and Fletcher will know what needs to be done. It is whether he will be allowed to do it and whether the players take responsibility for what has happened that will be key.

The turnaround in this series has been incredible. For England to have lost three tosses and to have been defeated in the first Test so heavily but to be 2-1 up with one to play is little short of phenomenal.

When they were 2-1 up in the last Ashes series they went to Sydney and produced their best performance and that is what they want to do now.

There have been echoes in this series of how they came back in Australia after a slightly shaky start in Brisbane and England will not want to share the series.

If they complete the job in Nagpur it will be right up there with the Ashes.

Picture dispute

We are unable to carry live pictures from the third Test in Kolkata due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

India v England: Five other tours of triumph

Five other tours of triumph that England are hoping to emulate in Nagpur

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UPDATED:

22:33 GMT, 9 December 2012

Alastair Cook's men are on the brink of an historic series success in India. Now they must hope they finish the job in Nagpur and move alongside these famous England touring teams who thrived on foreign soil…

4-1 v Australia, 1932-33

Not everyone approved of the tactics, but England’s Bodyline Ashes win remains their most memorable in Test history.

Under the uncompromising leadership of Douglas Jardine, Nottinghamshire fast bowler Harold Larwood restricted Don Bradman to a series average of ‘only’ 56.

3-1 v Australia, 2010-11

Andrew Strauss led England to their first victory in Australia for 24 years, thanks to three crushing innings wins at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Cook made an astonishing 766 runs.

Wizards of Oz: England celebrate with the Barmy Army at the SCG in 2011

Wizards of Oz: England celebrate with the Barmy Army at the SCG in 2011

2-1 v Sri Lanka, 2000-01

Fresh from winning 1-0 in Pakistan, Nasser Hussain’s side came back from an innings thumping in the first Test at Galle to pull off nervy but gutsy wins at Kandy and Colombo against a team including Muttiah Muralitharan at his peak.

2-0 v Australia, 1970-71

The Aussies had held the Ashes since winning them back in 1958-59, but Ray Illingworth was chaired off the field at Sydney after captaining a side inspired by Geoff Boycott’s runs and John Snow’s wickets.

England did not gain a single lbw decision in the six-match series.

Lovely bubbly: Ray Illingworth (centre), John Snow (right) and Geoff Boycott in Sydney

Lovely bubbly: Ray Illingworth (centre), John Snow (right) and Geoff Boycott in Sydney

2-1 v India, 1984-85

When India won the first Test at Delhi by eight wickets, everyone settled down for a repeat of the tedious 1980-81 series, when the Indians had shut England out after winning the opening Test.

But Mike Gatting and Graeme Fowler scored double hundreds and the tourists went home victors.

Saturday debate: Who is best captain of current era?

Saturday debate: Who do you think is the best sporting captain of the current era

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 7 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 7 December 2012

With Alastair Cook and Chris Robshaw guiding the England cricket and rugby teams to memorable victories in the last week or so, we ask our panel of experts which captain in the modern era they think is the most impressive…

PAUL NEWMAN Cricket Correspondent
I have to say Alastair Cook, don’t I To score three centuries in his first three Tests as permanent captain, together with the two he recorded deputising for Andrew Strauss in Bangladesh, is to make an extraordinary start to his reign and the records have just kept on tumbling in Kolkata. More tactical acumen will come. For now, Cook is the epitome of leading by example.

Flying start: Cook has made three centuries in three matches

Flying start: Cook has made three centuries in three matches

MIKE DICKSON Tennis Correspondent

It has to be a cricketer and the outstanding skipper of the past 10 years has been Graeme Smith: tactician, diplomat and leader by example. South Africa have never lost a Test when he has made a hundred, and since taking over aged 22 he has steered a skilful course through his country’s racial politics. Smith has had a personal hand in ending the reigns of three England captains, Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss, but may not be around to see off Alastair Cook.

RIATH AL-SAMARRAI Football writer

You don’t watch Barcelona for the centre halves, but it’s worth noting that five years had passed without a worthwhile gong when Carles Puyol took the armband eight years ago. Since then they have won five La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys and have produced arguably the greatest club side in history. Michael Laudrup calls Puyol Barca’s ‘heartbeat’; Edgar Davids says he is ‘essential to the way they play and think’. Puyol has done all right since ignoring Louis van Gaal’s demands to get a haircut after his first Barca training session.

Hair we go: Puyol is a natural leader

Hair we go: Puyol is a natural leader

IAN LADYMAN Nothern Football Correspondent

One club, 15 years, 430 games, 3,000 points and endless bloody noses. Kevin Sinfield may not play one of the world’s most heralded sports and he could walk down the street in most towns without even being recognised. But in terms of what he has done for his club, Leeds Rhinos, and for his sport there are few who have contributed more. Nice chap, too, by all accounts.

JONATHAN McEVOY

Imposing and unyielding, Graeme Smith is the brutal embodiment of the South African cricket team. Averaging just a flick under 50, his obdurate brilliance as an opener goes hand in hand with a spirited leadership that has persisted for 96 Test matches over almost a decade. Three England captains have perished at his hands, the latest this summer with South Africa’s return to No 1 in the Test rankings.

The greatest Smith holds the world No 1 mace after drawing in Australia

The greatest Smith holds the world No 1 mace after drawing in Australia

Nasser Hussain: Alastair Cook did not impress me when I first saw him

Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!

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UPDATED:

05:50 GMT, 7 December 2012

The first time I saw Alastair Cook was
during one of my many spells when I was struggling to score runs as
England captain. I wanted to clear my head, get back to basics, so I
asked my former coach Keith Fletcher if I could play for Essex seconds.

I turned up at Colchester and was
quickly dismissed so I went for a walk round the boundary edge with
Fletch, the wise old ‘Gnome’, to ask him what I could do to get my game
right. Suddenly Keith stopped, pointed to the middle and said: ‘That lad
is going to be one of the greats.’

I couldn’t see it to be honest. All I
saw was a left-hander whose head fell over when he played his shots and
was full of nudges and nurdles. His name was Alastair Cook and
he scored his 23rd Test hundred, more than any other Englishman. At the
time I just said to Keith: ‘That’s all very well, Fletch, but I’m
worried about my game here, not him!’

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

That reminded me of the time a
young off-spinning opponent of ours walked into the England dressing
room after taking a few wickets for KwaZulu Natal in a tour match in
Durban and plonked himself down next to me, asking if I knew of any
English teams he could play for.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Warne's Ashes return is an exciting prospect, but Aussies must move on
04/12/12

Nasser Hussain: I'd rest Stuart against India, but he will be back for Ashes
03/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Ricky Ponting was a streetfighter, a panto villain… and a true great
29/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Triumph is thanks to fantastic four… but it's time to have a word with out-of-sorts Broad
26/11/12

Nasser Hussain: 'Public enemy No 1' Pietersen is a genius and he is worth a bit of hassle
25/11/12

Nasser Hussain: England captain Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai
23/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Captain Cook must think on his feet now that the pressure is on
21/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I
thought he meant club cricket and almost gave him my brother’s number
and told him to try Fives and Heronians but it turned out he had bigger
ambitions than that. His name was Kevin Pietersen and in the second Test
he scored his 22nd Test hundred for England. All of which goes to show
how much I know about spotting a good young player.

Fast
forward a few months after my first meeting with Cook and I bumped into
him again when I went to the indoor school in Chelmsford for a bit of
practice —yes, you’ve guessed it, I was searching for form as England
captain.

When I got there, Cook, who had just
been named England Under 19 skipper, was with a local TV crew, I think
they might have been from Look East.

The
interviewer saw me and asked if the England captain might like to say a
few words about this young star from my county. I looked at Cook, back
at the interviewer and said, ‘Not now, son’, before going off to the
bowling machine.

Cook still
reminds me of that one every time I speak to him. There are plenty of
words to say about him now. He was brilliant here, brilliant in
scoring his record hundred, brilliant in reaching 7,000 Test runs
younger than anyone in history and brilliant in scoring his fifth
century in five Tests as captain.

Truly, this innings has to be right up there with his best. It is as good if not better than all those hundreds he made in Australia and the 294 he scored against India at Edgbaston. It was special because Cook was so fluent.

Ever since Cook scored that potentially career-saving hundred against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010, he has been an absolute run machine. And what really impresses me is that he has worked so hard on improving the areas of his game that, a couple of years ago, weren’t his best. He has never said: ‘This is how I play, it works for me.’ He has kept his strengths and improved his weaknesses.

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Not too long ago Cook relied heavily on his cut, pull and nudge off his hips. But now he is playing far more shots down the ground and is sweeping much more effectively. He may not have the flair of Pietersen or the shot selection of Graham Gooch, but he is becoming almost a complete batsman.

Cook keeps himself so well grounded. A lot of players might have been tempted to be a bit flashy after scoring hundreds in the last two Tests but he plays every innings with the same application as the last and at the same tempo. And how mentally strong must he be to score each of those hundreds after he has lost the toss and spent all that time in the field as a young and inexperienced captain

It’s good, too, that he has interests outside the game, in particular the family farm. /12/06/article-0-14214923000005DC-331_634x414.jpg” width=”634″ height=”414″ alt=”Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone” class=”blkBorder” />

Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone

I’m sure Cook’s team-mates will be inspired by him. Pietersen will want to quickly catch him up after falling one Test century behind him and Jonathan Trott will have been prodded after a relatively lean spell of his own. What will please Cook most of all is that his hundred has put his team in a potentially decisive position in this third Test and the series.

India were not very good on the second day, even though I cannot fault the effort of their four bowlers. They were flat and looked an old side in the field. If England can run them ragged they really will be on the verge of something special.

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me "This lad will be a great…" I just couldn"t see it!

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!

|

UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 6 December 2012

The first time I saw Alastair Cook was
during one of my many spells when I was struggling to score runs as
England captain. I wanted to clear my head, get back to basics, so I
asked my former coach Keith Fletcher if I could play for Essex seconds.

I turned up at Colchester and was
quickly dismissed so I went for a walk round the boundary edge with
Fletch, the wise old ‘Gnome’, to ask him what I could do to get my game
right. Suddenly Keith stopped, pointed to the middle and said: ‘That lad
is going to be one of the greats.’

I couldn’t see it to be honest. All I
saw was a left-hander whose head fell over when he played his shots and
was full of nudges and nurdles. His name was Alastair Cook and
he scored his 23rd Test hundred, more than any other Englishman. At the
time I just said to Keith: ‘That’s all very well, Fletch, but I’m
worried about my game here, not him!’

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

That reminded me of the time a
young off-spinning opponent of ours walked into the England dressing
room after taking a few wickets for KwaZulu Natal in a tour match in
Durban and plonked himself down next to me, asking if I knew of any
English teams he could play for.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Warne's Ashes return is an exciting prospect, but Aussies must move on
04/12/12

Nasser Hussain: I'd rest Stuart against India, but he will be back for Ashes
03/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Ricky Ponting was a streetfighter, a panto villain… and a true great
29/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Triumph is thanks to fantastic four… but it's time to have a word with out-of-sorts Broad
26/11/12

Nasser Hussain: 'Public enemy No 1' Pietersen is a genius and he is worth a bit of hassle
25/11/12

Nasser Hussain: England captain Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai
23/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Captain Cook must think on his feet now that the pressure is on
21/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I
thought he meant club cricket and almost gave him my brother’s number
and told him to try Fives and Heronians but it turned out he had bigger
ambitions than that. His name was Kevin Pietersen and in the second Test
he scored his 22nd Test hundred for England. All of which goes to show
how much I know about spotting a good young player.

Fast
forward a few months after my first meeting with Cook and I bumped into
him again when I went to the indoor school in Chelmsford for a bit of
practice —yes, you’ve guessed it, I was searching for form as England
captain.

When I got there, Cook, who had just
been named England Under 19 skipper, was with a local TV crew, I think
they might have been from Look East.

The
interviewer saw me and asked if the England captain might like to say a
few words about this young star from my county. I looked at Cook, back
at the interviewer and said, ‘Not now, son’, before going off to the
bowling machine.

Cook still
reminds me of that one every time I speak to him. There are plenty of
words to say about him now. He was brilliant here, brilliant in
scoring his record hundred, brilliant in reaching 7,000 Test runs
younger than anyone in history and brilliant in scoring his fifth
century in five Tests as captain.

Truly, this innings has to be right up there with his best. It is as good if not better than all those hundreds he made in Australia and the 294 he scored against India at Edgbaston. It was special because Cook was so fluent.

Ever since Cook scored that potentially career-saving hundred against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010, he has been an absolute run machine. And what really impresses me is that he has worked so hard on improving the areas of his game that, a couple of years ago, weren’t his best. He has never said: ‘This is how I play, it works for me.’ He has kept his strengths and improved his weaknesses.

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Not too long ago Cook relied heavily on his cut, pull and nudge off his hips. But now he is playing far more shots down the ground and is sweeping much more effectively. He may not have the flair of Pietersen or the shot selection of Graham Gooch, but he is becoming almost a complete batsman.

Cook keeps himself so well grounded. A lot of players might have been tempted to be a bit flashy after scoring hundreds in the last two Tests but he plays every innings with the same application as the last and at the same tempo. And how mentally strong must he be to score each of those hundreds after he has lost the toss and spent all that time in the field as a young and inexperienced captain

It’s good, too, that he has interests outside the game, in particular the family farm. /12/06/article-0-14214923000005DC-331_634x414.jpg” width=”634″ height=”414″ alt=”Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone” class=”blkBorder” />

Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone

I’m sure Cook’s team-mates will be inspired by him. Pietersen will want to quickly catch him up after falling one Test century behind him and Jonathan Trott will have been prodded after a relatively lean spell of his own. What will please Cook most of all is that his hundred has put his team in a potentially decisive position in this third Test and the series.

India were not very good on the second day, even though I cannot fault the effort of their four bowlers. They were flat and looked an old side in the field. If England can run them ragged they really will be on the verge of something special.

Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook score 22nd centuries: who is England"s greatest ever?

As Cook and Pietersen equal the greats, we ask: who is England's master blaster

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 30 November 2012

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 30 November 2012

They were different innings that both made history in one of England’s greatest ever Test wins, but in the week that both Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook equalled the England Test record by scoring their 22nd centuries we asked our panel of experts: who is the greatest England batsman of all time and why

Duelling pistols: Cook (left) and Pietersen have both notched 22 Test tons for England

Duelling pistols: Cook (left) and Pietersen have both notched 22 Test tons for England

Duelling pistols: Cook (left) and Pietersen have both notched 22 Test tons for England

Nasser Hussain

Former England captain and Sportsmail columnist

I can't remember the likes of Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton so I would like to go on what I’ve seen – and I have to choose Graham Gooch.

I am sure that, statistically, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen will both surpass everyone else – Cook will end up as the greatest in terms of stats and Pietersen will top everyone else in terms of sheer eye-catching brilliance.

But I will go for Gooch on the quality of the bowling he had to face. Think of any great opposition bowler over the last 40 years and Gooch has faced the majority of them – and in most cases scored runs against them – and he was just as good against both fast and spin bowling.

Class act: Gooch played against some of the best bowlers in history

Class act: Gooch played against some of the best bowlers in history

Think of Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Sir Richard Hadlee, Glenn McGrath. Even Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in his early days. The list goes on and on and Gooch has mostly walloped them.

What’s more, he loved doing it for England, for Queen and country. You can still see how much England means to him. He’s English through and through.

Lawrence Booth

Sportsmail cricket writer and Wisden editor

History – if not necessarily personal experience – tells you it’s hard to look beyond the three H’s: Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Len Hutton. All averaged in the mid-to-late 50s, and all three played on uncovered pitches, an alien concept to the contemporary cricketer.

Alastair Cook will end up as the leading England runscorer of all time, but they play more Tests these days: he has clocked up 85 in 6 years, while Hobbs managed only 61 in 22.

As for Kevin Pietersen – who, like Cook and Hammond, now has 22 Test hundreds – it’s hard to imagine any England batsman has ever played with his imagination and brass neck. But with his sense of adventure comes a vulnerability.

Ashes hero: Hobbs (centre) escapes a pitch invasion as Australia are beaten at The Oval in 1926

Ashes hero: Hobbs (centre) escapes a pitch invasion as Australia are beaten at The Oval in 1926

Hammond, by all accounts, was a glorious
stylist, especially through the off side, and would have been regarded
as the greatest player in the world had Don Bradman not ruined things.

Hutton was a cussed leader, whose numbers would have been even more impressive had war not intervened.

But Hobbs scored 12 Test hundreds
against Australia alone – a figure Cook and Pietersen would love on
their CVs. If I had to choose an England player to bat all day for my
life, it would be Jack Hobbs.

Standard bearer: Gooch

Standard bearer: Gooch

Paul Newman

Sportsmail cricket correspondent

It’s Graham Gooch for me. Not just for the fact that, for now, he remains England’s leading Test runscorer with 8,900 but also because he kickstarted the modern era of professionalism in English cricket.

He wasn’t everybody’s choice as England captain but, for me, many of the ideas and attitudes that have served the modern England team well first came into being on the 1990 tour of the West Indies under Gooch.

You could not really call Gooch a
natural athlete but towards the twilight of his career he turned himself
into a fitness fanatic to prolong a career which, with his natural
ability and bravery, was as good as any Englishman’s in history. He was
always able to give his all to his county, Essex, as soon as each Test
was over, too.

I cannot excuse Gooch for going on a
rebel tour of South Africa but if he hadn’t done that he would surely
have made more than 10,000 runs by the time he finished. As it is, if
you add his county record, he has scored more runs in all first-class
and one-day cricket than any other Englishman and I know he will be
proud when, not if, his protg Alastair Cook goes past his England
tally.

David Lloyd

Former England batsman, coach and Sportsmail columnist

Kevin Pietersen is the best I have ever seen for England. But, remember, I didn’t see Hammond, Hobbs or Hutton so I can’t compare him to them. KP is the only England player in my time who gets me on the edge of my seat. He is box-office, like the premiere of a good film or a night at the Royal Albert Hall. He is special. Lots of people can play the guitar but there’s only one Eric Clapton and, even though Kevin can play the odd bum note, he’s cricket’s Clapton.

Entertainer: Bumble's vote goes to Pietersen

Entertainer: Bumble's vote goes to Pietersen

We’ve been talking about Ricky Ponting this week and he’s a great player. Then there are others like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Sir Viv Richards and Rahul Dravid. Well, Pietersen is right up there with them.

Alastair Cook is only 27 and will go on to break all sorts of records but to me he’s like going to the theatre. I can have a wonderful evening and enjoy myself at the theatre but I’d rather go to see the Rolling Stones. KP is rock and roll. The greatest player I’ve ever seen is Sir Garry Sobers, but that’s a different story.

Top five England Test wins overseas

Lawrence Booth: England's victory in Mumbai is up with best overseas wins… here is where it ranks in the top five away performances

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UPDATED:

11:45 GMT, 26 November 2012

Kevin Pietersen’s brilliant 186 first innings knock and the 19 wickets taken by spin twins Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann meant that England’s 10 wicket victory over India in the second Test in Mumbai was one of their greatest wins overseas. Sportsmail cricket writer and editor of Wisden Lawrence Booth looks back at England’s top five away wins.

1) Jamaica, 1989-90: beat West Indies by nine wickets

Graham Gooch's no-hopers stun the best team in the world in their own fortress.

Winning in the Windies: The England team celebrate after beating the West Indies by 9 wickets in the first Test match in 1990

Winning in the Windies: The England team celebrate after beating the West Indies by 9 wickets in the first Test match in 1990

2) Sydney, 1894-95: beat Australia by 10 runs

England win after following on, one of only three such occasions in Test history.

Heading to Oz: The England team head to Australia by boat

Heading to Oz: The England team head to Australia by boat

3) Mumbai, 2012-13: beat India by 10 wickets

Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann share 19 wickets, plus centuries for Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.

The spin twins: Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar celebrate the win

The spin twins: Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar celebrate the win

4) Karachi, 2000-01: beat Pakistan by six wickets

Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe embrace in the dark to secure a famous series win.

Winning in the dark: England skipper Nasser Hussain (left) celebrates as England win in Karachi

Winning in the dark: England skipper Nasser Hussain (left) celebrates as England win in Karachi

Happy dressing room: The England team celebrate after winning the Karachi Test

Happy dressing room: The England team celebrate after winning the Karachi Test

5) Melbourne, 1954-55: beat Australia by 128 runs

Frank Tyson blows Australia away with 7 for 27.

Blown away: Australia batsman Richie Benaud is caught by Godfrey Evans off the bowling of Alec Bedser in the 1954-55 series

Blown away: Australia batsman Richie Benaud is caught by Godfrey Evans off the bowling of Alec Bedser in the 1954-55 series

India v England: David "Bumble" Lloyd reads Sportsmail column

Admiring your own column, Bumble We don't blame you! Sportsmail funnyman catches up with the best coverage of India v England

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UPDATED:

09:34 GMT, 19 November 2012

Read the latest editions of Bumble and Nasser's brilliant columns…

Bumble's diary: Cook doesn't perspire and never changes his gloves, magnificent

Nasser Hussain: England can rely on captain Cook on the subcontinent

Now this is what you call a Test Match Sofa.

Two members of Sportsmail's crack cricket team were spotted reading up on England's struggles during the first Test defeat to India in Ahmedabad.

David 'Bumble' Lloyd was pictured going through Sportsmail's Monday edition… and unconfirmed reports suggested he was busy admiring his own column.

Read all about it: Bumble (right) goes through Sportsmail's pages on Monday morning alongside Nasser Hussain

Read all about it: Bumble (right) goes through Sportsmail's pages on Monday morning alongside Nasser

Today Bumble tackled the issues of
Alastair Cook's remarkable ability not to sweat while batting in hot
conditions, the England captain's fine knock in Ahmedabad and the need
to bring back Monty Panesar for the second Test in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Nasser Hussain had clearly been up earlier than Bumble and devoured MailOnline and the paper before turning to The Times.

The pair were pictured at Sky Sports' Isleworth base in the wee hours of Monday morning as Cook's men slipped to a heavy nine-wicket defeat at the hands of MS Dhoni's India.

No sweat: Bumble today praised Alastair Cook's marvellous knock in the first Test... and his unique gift

No sweat: Bumble today praised Alastair Cook's marvellous knock in the first Test… and his unique gift

Sky's commentary team, including Sportsmail's dynamic duo, have been forced to broadcast from the UK due to a financial dispute with the Indian cricket board.

Sky refused to send any presenters or production staff to India after the BCCI demanded 500,000 for what it labelled ‘realistic’ facility costs for the broadcaster during the tour.

As a result, it is the first time in 20 years that television viewers are not receiving British coverage of an overseas England tour from inside the grounds.

Still, it's good to see at least one of our men putting his time back home in Blighty to good use…