England full of confidence ahead of decider with India
It is a remarkable transformation, above all for Cook himself, who faced widespread calls for his resignation when England lost the second test at Lord’s last month.
That was their 10th match without a victory, stretching back to almost a year.
In the third test at Southampton, however, Cook finally ended his dismal spell with the bat, scoring 95 and 70 not out as a rampant England won by 266 runs.
Carrying the new-found self-belief to Manchester, they won in even more convincing fashion by an innings and 54 runs with two full days to spare.
That gave them extra time to rest before the Oval contest, for which paceman Stuart Broad hopes to be fit despite having broken his nose while batting on Saturday.
Confidence is understandably high, in stark contrast to India, whose batsmen have flopped in spectacular fashion since their win at Lord’s – a result which ended their three-year run without an away success.
“Winning in three days was fantastic,” England coach Peter Moores told BBC radio’s Sportsweek programme on Sunday.
“Sport’s about momentum and when you get good momentum we backed that up and kept it for the whole game. Now we’ve got a huge game at the Oval to hopefully win the series.”
While playing down his own role in England’s transformation, Moores praised Cook for his resilience in the face of criticism.
“Alistair said he was in it for the long haul but if other people thought he wasn’t the right man, he’d happily step down.
“That was quite a significant moment because as people criticised him he’s really steeled himself to help develop the team.
“I think he’s done a great job and he knows we’re building something but he’s not getting carried away either.”
If the England camp are taking nothing for granted, some observers believe India are so demoralised that they look beaten already five days before the start of the final test.
Former captain Michael Vaughan described the tourists’ collapse on Saturday in Manchester, when they lost nine wickets in the last session to concede the match, as “pathetic”.
“The white towel that was on the balcony got thrown in,” he told the BBC.
“I think they won’t bounce back from this. They’re gone. They’re a team that just lost its spirit while England are getting better and better all the time.
“We can’t say it’s the start of something special yet but that tunnel two and a half weeks ago (after the Lord’s defeat) was very, very dark and we’ve started to see some bright lights at the end of it.” (Reuters)