Ever since Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott combined to put on 329 unbroken runs at The Gabba in 2010, it's been easy to think of the pair as England's most reliable duo — but as good as they have been in harness, they are not England's best partnership.
Cook, unsurprisingly, does feature — but his foil is Kevin Pietersen.
And when Cowers says they are good together, he means it — they are not only the most successful scoring pairing in the team in terms of runs scored and their average stand, but they are the best in recent history.
- AN Cook, KP Pietersen — 52 innings, 4 not outs, 3135 runs at 65.31 including 12 100 partnerships, 14 50s.
That total is the fifth-highest in terms of runs in the history of England Test cricket — and the highest partnership not to be made of two opening batsmen.
Their average stand of 65.31 is bested by only six England partnerships (who have put on at least 1,000 runs together).
52 times they have batted together, and 26 times they have managed at least a half-century stand — they are as likely to make 50 as not, which is a remarkable return.
In fact, they boast a consistency that far outstrips Cook and Trott (Nine 50+stands in 32 attempts), even if their numbers are also impressive:
- AN Cook, JT Trott — 32 innings, 2 not outs, 1900 runs at 63.33 including 7 100 partnerships, 2 50s.
As the two outstanding and most prolific batsmen in the team, it should be little surprise that Cook and Pietersen combine so well, and it is indeed if you were evaluating their talents on paper you would expect nothing less.
In Cook you have the disciplined, patient opener. In Pietersen is the aggressor. Cook wears bowlers down over time, while KP intimidates them from the off. Pietersen, the right-hander, is fidgety — Cook, the left-hander, unflappable. Cook scores predominantly in orthodox fashion, Pietersen skilled in the unorthodox.
Their combined strengths are the different questions they demand of bowlers, but their results could scarcely be more similar.
At the close of play on day two Pietersen averages 49.35 from 90 Tests, while Cook trails behind on a mere 49.34 from 85. They both have 21 Test centuries.
To suggest they are each other's cricketing yin and yang is a step too far, but it is certainly the case that they benefit from each other's presence in the team, and in the process, England benefit.
Cook unquestionably understands Pietersen's value. Having been installed as captain, he was a driving force and a calming influence in Pietersen's 'reintegration' into the team.
In the middle in Mumbai, cricket imitated life — a man in form, sticking to his strengths and batting with stoic authority at one end, while at the other Pietersen trusted his eye, and blazed his way back into the fold with a positive contribution.
The result was impressive to watch, as England becalmed a pitch which threatened to crumble in a dusty onslaught of spin, and gave the tourists hope — though for now it is merely hope — that they could punch their way back into the series.
England need Pietersen; the numbers show as much, and the feeling lingered over the months he spent festering in the cricketing wilderness. But for those who believe you can prove anything with statistics, watching the batsman in full flow for a couple of hours in the Indian evening told you everything you needed to know.
- Top partnerships in Test cricket by average since 2000 (min. 2,000 runs)
- Pair Nation Runs Average
- Langer/Ponting AUS 3089 81.28
- Yousuf/Khan PAK 3137 78.42
- Kallis/de Villiers SA 2981 75.42
- Kallis/Kirsten SA 2474 72.76
- Clarke/Ponting AUS 2322 68.29
- Hayden/Ponting AUS 4765 67.11
- Amla/Kallis SA 3683 65.76
- COOK/PIETERSEN ENG 3135 65.31