Cook is masterchef

SP

On August 22, 1939, Walter Hammond scored 138 against the West Indies at The Oval, on what was to be his last day of Test cricket for nearly seven years. Hammond would play eight more Test matches after World War II, but add no more centuries to his tally of 22.

No one had scored more hundreds for England.

Seventy three years, three months and 14 days after Hammond's 138, Alastair Cook swept Ravichandran Ashwin for three to go from 98 to 101. As the Eden Gardens crowd rose to their feet, they must have felt the force of history. Cook had become the 23rd player to score 23 Test hundreds, but only the first Englishman.

Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott had ended their careers stuck alongside Hammond on 22. Boycott had served a self-imposed three-year exile from Test cricket. Cook's ex-captain and long-term opening partner Andrew Strauss, on 21, could have had a crack at the record, but lost form and hung up his boots before the India tour. A heart attack had forced Ken Barrington to retire with 20 hundreds. Graham Gooch, Cook's mentor and England's current batting coach, also had 20 - he had lost three years of Test cricket to a ban for leading a rebel tour of Apartheid-ruled South Africa.

On the day Hammond made his final Test century, the drawn Test had ended with Len Hutton and Denis Compton unbeaten on 165 and 10. The War ate into their careers as well, and they finished with 19 and 17 hundreds respectively.

Cook, who had now literally swept the curse away, embraced Compton's grandson. In the dressing room, Kevin Pietersen, waiting for his next opportunity to move past 22, rose to applaud. Cook, nearly five years younger than Pietersen, could eventually raise the English century bar to a mark that will probably stand for a couple of generations. But he might have his sights set on even bigger things.

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