Accounting for KP and Cook's cat'n'mouse race

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Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook continue to swap position amid England's leading Test run-scorers, but how do they compare – statistically, mentally, historically – with Graham Gooch, David Gower, Alec Stewart and Geoff Boycott?

Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook continue to swap position amid England's leading Test run-scorers, but how do they compare – statistically, mentally, historically – with Graham Gooch, David Gower, Alec Stewart and Geoff Boycott?

Kevin Pietersen is arguably aided in his battle to ultimately usurp <b>Cook (innings: 171, runs: 7742, highest score: 294, average: 48.08)</b> as England's leading run-scorer in that he bats in the middle order, and thus hardly has to combat the many threats posed by the first new ball. Fans of the South African-born right-hander, though, could dispute that its Cook's 173 and 109 not out against the lowly Bangladeshis that have him two centuries higher than his contemporary. A recent poll on the Cricket365's frontpage, though, presented a telling verdict. Almost 5,000 readers voted on the England batsman they'd have bat for their life, with Cook accruing a resounding 11 percent more ballots than Pietersen.

<b>Pietersen (innings: 169, runs: 7775, highest score: 227, average: 48.29)</b>, amid a cavalier first innings in which he targeted Nathan Lyon in the first innings in Durham, moved past Cook to become England's fifth highest run-scorer. Cook, however, reclaimed the title 48 hours. Pietersen, though, recovered the position soon thereafter and – going into the final Test at The Oval – will officially be fifth only to Gooch, Gower, Stewart and Boycott. But for how long? The pair's statistics – in innings, runs, average and centuries – are remarkably similar, perhaps only split by Cook's 294-run Tour de Force against India in 2011. Current form, particularly against the hardy Australians, counts for so much more than past glories achieved against an indifferent Indian unit.

Top of the pops – and rightly so – <b>Graham Gooch's record (innings: 215, runs: 8900, highest score: 333, average: 42.58)</b>, of course, remains the benchmark for England's modern-day cricketers. The steely right-hander played more than a third of his 118 Test matches against Australia, though fell consistently short against the old enemy – including a pair on debut. A three-year ban for leading the first rebel tour to South Africa, admittedly, prevented the belligerent right-hander from joining the esteemed 10,000-runs club. Much like Michael Clarke today, Gooch's Test aggregate thrived when moved from the rank'n'file, where he averaged 35.93, to the captaincy, which brought 58.72.

While <b>Alec Stewart's numbers (innings: 235, runs: 8463, highest score: 190, average: 39.54)</b> were surely inflated by relatively easy runs in six matches against Zimbabwe, when considering the additional responsibility of wicketkeeping and – occasionally – captaincy, there is little denying the solidity of overall statistics. Naysayers, however, will also be quick to point out he never scored a double-century and finished with a sub-40 average – arguably some six runs less than a Test match batsman's yardstick.

The left-handed <b>David Gower (innings: 204, runs: 8231, highest score: 215, average: 44.25)</b> sported one of the better conversion rates among England's older school, with one in every three half-centuries graduated to three figures. Unfettered by pesky fixtures against small fries Zimbabwe, Gower rather filled his proverbial boots against the big gun Australians – exactly half of his 18 centuries came against the Ashes rivals. This impressive haul included a match-winning 215 in the face of a fiery onslaught led by Geoff Lawson and Jeff Thomson in Birmingham, 1985.

Laborious at best, <b>Geoffrey Boycott (innings: 193, runs: 8114, highest score: 246*, average: 47.72)</b> epitomised the dogged, Test match opener – winning fans and foes alike for his characteristic pedestrianism. His century tally could have read considerably larger, but the unfortunate victim of the nervous 90s on six occasions and the recipient of a desperately closed 99 not out against the Aussies in Perth in 1997 settled on 22. Unlike his piers in this list, the stalwart right-hander was unable to make a success of ODI cricket – understandably so, as a strike-rate of 53.56 promptly ended that ambition.

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