Cook, the captain, and "game-changer" Kevin Pietersen are on a par with three greats of English cricket as their country's most prolific cen- turions after their innings in the second Test.
On the back of Pietersen's 186 and Cook's fourth century in as many successive matches as England Test captain, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann exploited a spinners' pitch expertly for a 10-wicket victory in little more than three days at the Wankhede Stadium. Panesar finished with a career-best 11 wickets in the match, and Swann eight, as India were bowled out for 142 yesterday despite Gautam Gambhir's determined 65.
The left-handed opener's was one of only two double-figure scores in the hosts' second innings as slow left-armer Panesar (six for 81) and off- spinner Swann (four for 43) took India apart to make it 1-1 with two to play.Their contributions earned the captain's praise and gratitude, but there was no question it was Pietersen who altered the direction of the match with his supreme batsmanship in a double-century stand with Cook on days two and three.
In conditions which allowed spinners to take 28 of the 30 wickets to fall – there was one for James Anderson, with the second ball of the match, and Matt Prior was run out – Pietersen not only kept India's three slow bowlers at bay but dominated them in one of his finest innings. "There are not many people in the world who could do what Kevin did," Cook said. "It was the difference between the teams; he took the Test away from India."
Without Pietersen, England might easily have lost, even allowing for Cook's admirable contribution as each took his century tally to 22. Cook, though, also emphasised collective resilience – following England's emphatic loss in Ahmedabad last week – as a telling factor. "It's been an incredible 3½ days from the lads, [in terms of] the character we have shown from last week. We could have let our heads drop but we came here, worked as hard as we could in the nets and we took that belief and form we needed into the game. That is as good a game as I have been involved in for England."
If Pietersen and Cook outbatted their opponents, Panesar, in particular, outbowled India. "The way Swanny and Monty bowled, under pressure, was fantastic, especially because we didn't want to be chasing a lot on that wicket," said Cook, who was joined by Nick Compton to hit the 57 runs England needed in less than 10 overs.
England thus demonstrated, after a series of hapless innings against sub-continental spin, that they can deal with it after all.
"It was a tough dressing room to be in, with people talking about us playing spin, but to turn it around so quickly proves the work we have done is the right work," Cook said. "It is not going to be perfect every time. I said before the game we need to take the work we have done in the nets out in the middle and perform – and that is what we did. We are not perfect – we are nowhere near that – but it is encouraging that the stuff we are doing has born fruit this week."
Man-of-the-match Pietersen endorsed his captain's mid-tour analysis – of one job well done, but much more still needed. "Any Test victory is huge but we are not going to get ahead of ourselves, for sure," he said. "Last week we got hammered but this week we turned up . . . the important thing is not scoring runs in the nets; it is scoring runs in the middle.
"I thought our spinners were exceptional. It is special to be part of this team. The dressing room is united. It is fun, and we are having a great time on this trip."