How good are Strauss' stars?

We can debate for an eternity whether the present members of 2011 are better than the Ashes winners of 2005, Brearley's brightest in 1977-81, or the last team to lead the world around 1979 or the stars of the middle 1950s. They are just as good and that one day we will have no trouble calling them the best of all time, writes Ted Corbett.

Good. Great. A wonder team. The best of all time. I have seen all these claims for England 2011 since they won the third Test of the cricket series against India and forced ICC to throw away the rule book and name them as world champions before the series finished.

So just how good are Andrew Strauss's stars? Let's compare them with the finest in England's history and see how they rate.

We will start with Strauss, a unique captain and one who has forced me to change my mind about his skills twice. He began, when Michael Vaughan was injured, against Pakistan in 2006 and impressed me with his handling of Monty Panesar, a spinner that Vaughan had treated with less than total sympathy. Despite Andrew Strauss's success Andrew Flintoff was given the Ashes captaincy in 2006-7 — after weeks of soul searching by David Graveney, chairman of the selectors, and it was not until Vaughan had resigned and then Kevin Pietersen quit that Strauss took the reins again.

Until this summer I thought him a captain who did not compare with the greats. He seemed to lack cricket instinct and to need too many trips to the pavilion to consult the coach Andy Flower.

Now I have a much greater understanding of the Strauss method. His skills are in the dressing room, in encouraging his players to produce their best, rather than in ball-by-ball management. No question he is a winner and deserves to rank, if not among the all-time greats, certainly among the best of communicators.

There is less debate about where he and Alistair Cook stand among openers. They are the only successful left-handed combination and on figures alone rate with Geoff Boycott and John Edrich 40 years ago and Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe between the Wars.

Surely they will overtake the partnership figures by both these pairings and join Des Haynes and Gordon Greenidge the finest in history.

The two South Africans Jonathon Trott and Pietersen are the backbone of the team's batting and an imposing pair at No. 3 and No. 4. You might not scream with delight at the thought of Trott and Cook plodding along together as they did against both Sri Lanka and Australia but the rest of the team love it.

They provide the solid foundation for any big score even if they do not produce a stream of exotic strokes in the fashion of Pietersen who, coming in after a long, boring stand by Trott and Cook must send shivers down the backbone of the opposing bowlers.

Pietersen has now fully matured. Gone are the personal doubts, the far too early big swings, the impetuous wish to reach a landmark with a glorious stroke. Life, marriage, fatherhood and the passing of time have shown him that the record books will remember his scores not his single shots. He compares with any of the greats of the past — David Gower, Walter Hammond and Peter May — who combined elegant shots and big scores and played a major part in England victories.

Ian Bell at his best — and that is still not, in my opinion, regular enough — is going to leave his mark and so will Eon Morgan but there is still evidence to be gathered before it is fair to give them a place among the legends.

Not so with the wicket-keeper Matt Prior who has had his indifferent performances in the past both as batsman and 'keeper. Now all that lies behind him and he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the finest batmen-keepers — Alec Stewart, of the last generation and Les Ames, another from the mid-1930s.

No one can outshine Alan Knott of the generation led by Mike Brearley and Ray Illingworth but in his own way Prior is mastering his craft. He is an attacker, piling runs on top of the efforts of the top six in the manner of Adam Gilchrist and whether he can play a great defensive innings or lead a recovery remains to be seen. He could bat at No. 6 if England needed to play an extra bowler.

That brings me to the enormous strength of this England side. We have not yet seen the best of Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, lower order batsmen who can, at various times, make a big score into an impassable total.

As a bowler Bresnan may yet turn out to be the new Alec Bedser, delivering the ball at slightly less than top pace, but consistent in line and length and backing James Anderson, who is among the best half dozen opening bowlers in the world and the hostile Broad whose pace has the potential to top 95 miles an hour.

The pace trio — with Chris Tremlett adding height to a formidable armoury of seam and swing when he is fit — make a daunting attack.

Swann has played second fiddle to the seam bowlers this summer but his day will come again and his batting and fielding — as well as his role as team cheerleader — mean the selectors only ever hold meetings to confirm that their star men are fit and eat a pleasant dinner.

We can debate for an eternity whether the great side of 2011 is better than the Ashes winners of 2005, Brearley's brightest in 1977-81, or the last team to lead the world around 1979 or the stars of the middle 1950s.

I reckon they are just as good and that one day we will have no trouble calling them the best of all time.