Keith Fletcher, the former England captain, admits he's surprised with the progress made by Alastair Cook, England's opening batsman, and predicts he could end up as one of the "all-time greats". Having played a vital role in Cook's formative years in Essex, Fletcher sent out a clear warning to India's bowlers ahead of the forthcoming Test series.

"He's done better than what I thought," Fletcher told Cricinfo on the sidelines of the Indians' tour game against England Lions at Chelmsford. "I always thought he'll be a good Test player but he's got there quicker than I thought he would. He began playing for England at the right time but I didn't think he'd have quite the success that he'd have.

"It's a phenomenal start - six hundreds - and he's just 21. So if he keeps on getting better, which he should do, there's not reason why he shouldn't be one of the all-time greats. He's good between the ears."

Fletcher was instrumental in Cook's development as a cricketer, calling him "just about the best young batsman I have ever seen", and recalled watching him smash club bowlers in Essex. "I used to go and watch him play club cricket. I just saw the way he moved and the way he could destroy club bowling and was so impressed. And he was 16 then.

"I saw him score 170 against quite a good attack with overseas players playing. He doesn't seem like a batsman who can destroy but he used to really get after them. And that's when I thought he could be an absolute crackerjack."

Fletcher reckoned that the forthcoming Test series, starting on Thursday at Lord's, could end up being a high-scoring one. "I'll be very surprised if [Rahul] Dravid doesn't get a couple of hundreds in the Tests, [Sachin] Tendulkar too. The bat might dominate the ball, which will be nice. I think it will be a hard-fought close series.

"I think it depends on the wickets - Lord's we've had a lot of rain, but is usually a good batting wicket. England may have a slight advantage at The Oval - it has pace. It may come down to our seamers against India's batters."