Graham Gooch (seen here in India in March) wants the present England side to break his batting records as they bid to cement their status as the world's number one Test side.
AFP/File - Manan Vatsyayana

LONDON (AFP) - Graham Gooch wants the present England side to break his batting records as they bid to cement their status as the world's number one Test side.

England climbed to the summit of world cricket with a mammoth innings and 242 run win over former ICC Test Championship table-toppers India in the third Test at Edgbaston last week.

That left them 3-0 up in a four-match series and their bid to complete a clean sweep began promisingly as they made 75 without loss on the first day of at The Oval on Thursday before rain prevented any play after lunch.

England captain Andrew Strauss was 38 not out and fellow left-hander Alastair Cook, Gooch's Essex protege, 34 not out.

Both Strauss and Cook have now scored 19 Test hundreds, one shy of Gooch's mark of 20 and three adrift of the all-time England record of 22 shared by Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott.

"As far as I?m concerned I'll be absolutely delighted if someone goes past any of my records, because it'll mean England are winning cricket matches," said former skipper and opening batsman Gooch.

"From the time I was a captain, player and selector, I was only interested in one thing, and that was England winning cricket matches."

Cook made a career-best 294 at Edgbaston, just falling short in his quest to become the first England batsman since Gooch posted 333 against India at Lord's in 1990 to make a Test match triple century.

Still aged just 26, all England batting records - including Gooch's aggregate of 8,900 Test runs, appear within range for Cook and his mentor said: "Alastair Cook has the four attributes that make up a 'run-maker'.

"He has a great attitude; he has technical ability; his knowledge pool is increasing all the time, of how to play in certain situations; and he has the number one attribute, massive powers of concentration.

"If you want to score 200, you can't do it in an hour; you've got to be out there for six or seven hours. You've got to play every ball singly for all that time -- each ball in isolation.

"Alastair continues to improve. You see all the hard work he puts in. It doesn't come by chance; it's hard work and ability, and he's getting the rewards. We are proud of him."

By contrast, India's much vaunted top order, which includes batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, haven't made as much as 294 in any of their six innings so far this series.

"The England team has bowled well as a unit," Gooch said. "Sometimes if the pressure is on you, it's difficult to succeed.

"The Indian line-up is tried and trusted, with some of the greatest names the game has ever seen. They've not got the runs they would have liked but I'm sure they'll be out there in the nets tomorrow (Friday)."

Gooch, asked what had changed since his playing days, when England were never regarded as the world's best Test team, replied: "Down the years England have put together good teams that have played well.

"I think the difference with this team is it is playing consistent cricket on a regular basis, and gelling more all the time," added Gooch, who was ahead of his time in stressing the importance of physical fitness -- "I've never seen a fitter, stronger player become a worse player," he said Thursday.

Looking ahead Gooch, said it was vital England focused on the task at hand if they wanted to stay top of the rankings.

"It's a nice landmark, but the team draw a line under it now," he said.

"The only game that counts is here at 11 o'clock (1000GMT) tomorrow - and when this one's over, the only game that counts will be the next one. If you keep winning cricket matches, you might be able to retain that status.

"Being number one doesn't guarantee you winning a cricket match."


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