Cricket: Cook goes one step beyond with record century
On August 22, 1939, Wally Hammond scored his 22nd and last hundred for England. Twelve days later, the Second World War began and nothing was ever the same again.
On December 6, 2012, with the planet not necessarily in much better order, Alastair Cook scored his 23rd Test century. After 73 years and 106 days, Hammond's English record was finally broken. In the intervening period it had been equalled four times but never overhauled.
Cook passed plenty of other milestones while also establishing an enviable position for his side in the third Test against India.
England finished the second day on 216-1, precisely 100 runs behind India, whose first innings was done and dusted in the first hour of the morning.
Cook was imperturbable as ever. Before he surpassed the great Hammond, he also overhauled the number of runs made for England by Len Hutton – if you are knocking one legend off you may as well knock off two – and soon after became the youngest player from any country to score 7,000 Test runs.
Cook was 27 years and 347 days old yesterday, Sachin Tendulkar was 28 years and 193 days when he reached the total in 2001. The man who took the fewest innings to get there was Hammond himself, a mere 131 compared to Cook's 151, although he was 43 and a bit at the time, that war having interrupted him.
There is more about Cook. No player has done what he has by scoring hundreds in each of their last five matches as captain – two against Bangladesh in 2010, now three in this series against India. In that respect at least it can only go downhill.
When Hammond was out towards the end of the match on the final day in 1939 he was replaced at the wicket by Denis Compton. Accompanying Cook yesterday for his moment of history was Nick Compton, Denis' grandson. It was his maiden Test half-century in his fifth innings.
Together, Cook and Compton wore down the opposing bowlers in the afternoon. Compton reached his maiden 50 with a pulled single to square leg off his 125th ball and five overs later Cook reached his hundred from 179 balls with a paddle sweep which brought a brisk three.
They looked to be booking in for bed and breakfast when Compton was incorrectly given out lbw after the ball had hit his glove on its way to his pad.
Jonathan Trott batted out the last 70 minutes without alarm as England's strategy remained unchanged. (© Independent News Service)