They’ve both played 92 Tests, they are both world-class batsmen and they both scored a hundred on Test debut, in each case away to India.

But it’s the differences between England captain Alastair Cook and Australia skipper Michael Clarke that promise to make their personal Ashes battle particularly fascinating when the latest clash between Test cricket’s oldest rival nations starts in Nottingham on Wednesday.

For while both men like to lead by example with the bat, Cook is seen as a popular leader, capable of handling ‘awkward’ characters such as Kevin Pietersen, but a cautious tactician whereas Clarke is regarded as imaginative in the field but has faced questions over his man-management.

Aged just 28, Cook has already scored more test hundreds – 25 – than any other England batsman.

England’s approach in the field under coach Andy Flower has been one of keeping control and building pressure.

Since January 1 last year, Clarke has been in superb form, with a triple hundred against India and three more double centuries, including two against South Africa, the world’s leading Test side. Yet his batting and attacking captaincy could not prevent a series loss to South Africa or a 4-0 hammering away to India, where his backing for coach Mickey Arthur proved divisive.

Arthur was eventually sacked just 16 days before the Ashes, following the ‘homework’ row that saw four players, including then vice-captain Shane Watson, dropped for not completing a written assignment.

However, the fact that Darren Lehmann has since replaced Arthur and that the captain himself is no longer a selector should help Clarke.

England hold the Ashes and that makes it less likely Cook will depart from his usual approach.AFP