A landmark looms for England cricket

Cook, Pietersen in the race for top centurion.


Cook and Pietersen: Who will get there first?

Sachin Tendulkar has 51 Test centuries. Ricky Ponting has 41. England's top century scorers - and now there are five of them on the same perch - have 22 apiece. Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, during their remarkable turnaround in the Mumbai Test, joined Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott on this singular pedestal. It is likely that a new leader of England century makers shall presently be unearthed and in honour of that The Guardian's cricket blog - The Spin - analyses the paths that these five honourable Englishmen charted to their landmarks, and why the motherland lags behind in the overall list of century makers..

In all the excitement of England's extraordinary win, the achievement was a little lost. No doubt the celebrations will be renewed when one or the other of them does what no English batsman has ever been able to and scores a 23rd. The rest of the world must look on in wonder, not through awe but amusement. 22 Test centuries, after all, is a trifle in comparison to Sachin Tendulkar's tally of 51. And he is only one of 22 men who have surpassed it, along with two Sri Lankans, two South Africans, three Pakistanis, four West Indians, four Indians and seven – name them, no peeking – Australians. Looked at like that, this feels a little like celebrating conquering Ben Nevis when the rest of the world is off tackling Everest.

Still, Hammond's total was too many for Andrew Strauss (21 Test centuries), whose attempt on it was cut short by the strains of captaincy, Graham Gooch (20) lost three years because of his lamentable decision to tour South Africa, Len Hutton (19) and Denis Compton (17) both lost six years to the second world war, David Gower (18) was forced to declare early by the whims of the selectors, and ill health hobbled Michael Vaughan (18) and Ken Barrington (20). Cook and Pietersen then, are both on the edge not just of greatness but of being the greatest of English Test batsmen.

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