Captain Cook praises bowlers
Alastair Cook believes England's historic back-to-back Test wins in India are deserved reward for their year of hard work and willingness to learn.
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A seven-wicket victory at Eden Gardens put England 2-1 up with just one match to play, and on course for a first series success here in almost 28 years.
The sustained wicket-taking spells of spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann and reverse-swing seamers James Anderson and Steven Finn are continued demonstration of the skills England's bowlers have devised and perfected to prosper in Asia.
But Cook's three successive hundreds, culminating in an English record-breaking 23rd, and significant first-innings runs almost throughout the top six in this third Test are a world away from the hapless performances against Pakistan spin with which England began the year in the United Arab Emirates.
The first step, according to England's new captain, was to recognise there was an issue - and then start doing something about it.
Amid the euphoria of the latest victory, albeit achieved after a last-minute wobble when England lost their first three wickets for eight in pursuit of just 41, Cook acknowledged they have trodden a difficult path in the past 12 months.
"We've had a tough 2012," he said.
"But the way we've managed to quickly rectify a few of our problems is a credit to our coaching staff and the leadership of (coach) Andy Flower - and the players as well.
"The first thing was a realisation of a problem, playing against spin.
"It probably wasn't as big as everyone made out. But all of us as a batting unit had to have a look at our technique against spin and work out a method which suits each of us individually.
"We worked our socks off trying to improve our technique. Although we didn't get immediate results - it's not going to happen overnight - we are now starting to."
Cook's first assignment as permanent Test captain, after the surprise retirement of Andrew Strauss last summer, will now result in a drawn series at worst - and he has every reason to hope for better after the final Test in Nagpur.
If a transitional period had ensued post-Strauss, there would have been obvious mitigation.
But it has not, and Cook added: "The way everyone has stuck together under a new captain, I can't praise them enough.
"It's been a lot of hard work.
"I think what we've done really is we've taken what we've been doing in the nets out into the middle, and started to perform close to our potential.
"That's what's happened. That's why we've won these last couple of games."
It all clicked first of all for a 10-wicket win in Mumbai, and then in Kolkata - apart from one dodgy session yesterday and today's minor stumble - England barely put a foot wrong.
"In this game our bowlers have been outstanding," Cook said. "To restrict them to 300 in the first innings on that wicket was a great effort.
"Then yesterday, when they were 80 for nought, to put in a session like we did in the afternoon to take six-for was highly-skilled bowling - with Swanny at one end, getting (Virender) Sehwag straightaway, and then reverse-swing from Jimmy and Finny was exceptional.
"It's a credit to their fitness and their heart that even when it gets tough they keep running in for me.
"As a captain, that's all you can want."
That does not mean Cook will ask for any less in Nagpur.
"I firmly believed we were doing the right things in preparation and these results have proved we are," he said.
"But it doesn't stop now; we've got to keep doing this, to go again in Nagpur.
"We've got to keep putting our hands up at the right time; from one to 11 in this game, people have done that."
Cook has underpinned the last two victories himself.
He described his dismissal for 190 on Friday, run out backing up when he did not ground his bat and instead allowed a throw through to hit the wickets, as a "brain-fade".
He could have had no other reason for self-reproach, and many for satisfaction, but it does not appear in Cook's nature to indulge in the latter.
"I obviously got a little bit of luck early on," he said, having been dropped at slip on 17.
"But we said, on that wicket, that if we could bat as long as we could we'd put ourselves in a great position.
"Luckily, I was the one to go on and score a big hundred. When you get in here, you've got to go big - because it's hard to get in, but once you do it's about maintaining that rhythm."
There was classic understatement, too, in his reaction to becoming England's most prolific centurion of all time.
"To score 23 hundreds was obviously a very good moment for me," he said.
"I wouldn't have known what the record was when I first started.
"It's great to have contributed to an amazing couple of games. It's gone really well, the batting on this tour ... I hope I can do it one more time."
England paceman Anderson praised the leadership skills of captain Cook.
"The first Test we saw how it was going to be tough for us," he told BBC Five Live's Sportsweek.
"We bounced back last week but to come here and put in an equally good performance was something special.
"Cook has been brilliant. The amount of runs he's got in the last three games have been incredible and he's crucial to the team. His first-innings score was a huge factor in us winning the game.
"He's the sort of guy who likes to lead from the front, lead by example, and he just wants to go out there and show what he can do and hopes everyone follows him. And we're certainly doing that."
Anderson finished with six wickets in the match, but thinks spinners Graeme Swann (three wickets) and Monty Panesar (five) also deserve credit for the part they played.
"(Swann and Panesar) have been fantastic in the last two games," said Anderson.
"Monty especially, having not played much international cricket over the last 12 months.
"He's settled back in brilliantly and got us crucial wickets at crucial times, and he's done that throughout the game.
"With Swanny, we know what we're going to get with him. As in this game, getting the crucial wicket of (Virender) Sehwag which started off that run for us in that session yesterday."
Anderson is already turning his attention to the fourth Test in Nagpur next week, where England have the chance to secure a 3-1 series win.
But the paceman sounded a note of caution, saying: "We've got a lot of improving to do.
"We're really pleased with the last two wins, but going into the fourth Test we want to win the series outright and put in a really good performance to finish with.
"We really want to focus on the last game and if we can win that and win the series outright we can celebrate after that."
Spinner Swann added on Sky Sports: "With the Mumbai Test last week when we lost the toss and somehow managed to come from behind in the game and win, you don't ever think you're going to emulate that.
"But we did the same here. We lost the toss on day one on a wicket that for two sessions looked undeniably slow and low, and we thought it was going to be a real long haul to try and win the game from here.
"But that session on Saturday after lunch, after a pep talk from Andy Flower at lunchtime, those sessions come few and far between so it's good that we're on the right side of it."