Alastair Cook has no hesitation in describing James Anderson as the world's most skilful bowler. The England captain still recalls his early meetings with the prickly young opponent and team-mate whose vocabulary was apparently confined to a series of obscene grunts.
A decade on, with evergreen Anderson just seven short of Sir Ian Botham's all-time England Test wicket-taking record, it is the 32-year-old's ability to make the ball 'talk' which leaves Cook in awe.
Anderson is still prone to pushing the boundaries in verbal exchanges, his aggressive on-pitch persona reportedly a pre-requisite to channel optimum performance from swing and seam repertoire.
But as Cook prepares to deploy Anderson again in the fifth and final Investec Test against India at The Oval today – in his prolific pace partnership with Stuart Broad, fit despite a broken nose – the captain's appraisal tells it pretty straight too.
Anderson's mastery and disguise of swing places him above even South Africa's Dale Steyn among his global contemporaries, in Cook's estimation.
Should he underline the point by equalling or passing Botham's 383 Test wickets as England seek to turn a 2-1 lead into a series victory over India, Anderson's status as England's greatest will be statistical fact.
"It's an amazing achievement," said Cook. "He's the most skilful bowler in the world."
Anderson exemplified not just that but also an admirable tenacity when he defied a virus to cut through India's top order en route to victory in his home Test at Old Trafford last week.
"You saw his guts and determination. That tells me what a bloke he is," added Cook.