Six of the best

The key men in the rise of the world's number one Test side

Last Updated: 14/08/11 2:00pm

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England's rise to the top of the Test rankings has completed a remarkable turnaround for a nation who were rated the world's worst team a little over a decade ago.

Coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss have helped a talented squad fulfil their potential to record victories in eight of their last nine Test series.

Here skysports.com looks at half-a-dozen players who have been instrumental in turning England into the world's most feared team.

Andrew Strauss: The captain may have struggled occasionally for runs at the top of the order, but he has done enough to retain his authority in charge of a stellar team. Strauss and coach Flower's insistence on a team ethos and collective endeavour have underpinned England's dramatic and sustained improvement.

Alastair Cook: A revelation in Australia last winter, it is hard to credit Strauss' 26-year-old deputy was apparently struggling to justify his position with many before the Ashes. Outscored all but the great Wally Hammond, more than 80 years ago, on that trip. He is already closing in on 20 Test hundreds, vindication indeed for his stoic approach to batting in the longest format - as his 294 in the third Test highlighted.

Jonathan Trott: A right-handed Cook in terms of strike rate, and just as prolific. Trott proved the selectors right with a debut hundred when he was plunged into the Oval Ashes decider in 2009 - and apart from a sticky patch in his native South Africa a few months later, has very rarely let them down since.

Matt Prior: Wicketkeeper-batsmen have to reach and maintain the highest standards merely to satisfy the doubters, and need to be extra-special to get the plaudits. Prior's increasing assurance behind the stumps and wonderful tempo and consistency in front of them make him one of England's greatest Test assets. Six hundreds from number seven, at a strike rate approaching 70, is reminiscent of Adam Gilchrist.

Graeme Swann: The world's best slow bowler, according to International Cricket Council rankings, the charismatic Swann is the heart and soul of the team on and off the pitch. He is capable of turning the ball on most surfaces, but is occasionally less at ease when defensive rather than attacking methods are required.

James Anderson: After hinting for five years or more that he was a world-class bowler in the making, Anderson came of age last summer in favourable conditions against Pakistan - and then proved he could travel too by taking 24 wickets in the Ashes in Australia. He is England's Plan A with the ball, and usually delivers these days.

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