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During a week when Wisden announced an "All-time Test XI" and Patrick Ferriday published a book, Masterly Batting, that ranks the best Test hundreds ever made, Jon Hotten, writing in his blog, The Old Batsman, believes that such lists are not only subjective, but difficult to take to, and will always divide opinions so long as emotion is involved in the sport.
Would I have enjoyed Boycott's hundredth hundred any less if England hadn't won (at least I think they won - it doesn't matter now), or KP's 158 in 2005 any more had it been less manic and flukey and chanceless? What about all of those Steve Waugh tons when I loved him and hated him at the same time, and why did I get a lump in my throat when he hit that boundary from the last ball of the day at the SCG?
The Guardian picks out an extract from Ferriday's book that focuses on Graeme Smith's famous second-innings 154* in Edgbaston in 2008 that powered South Africa to a remarkable victory against England.
On a personal level, Smith upgraded the archetypal captain's innings for the 21st century. It had all the over-my-dead-body qualities associated with the genre, but its purpose was victory rather than the avoidance of defeat, and he scored at a 21st-century strike-rate of 63. In some ways this was the completion of an almost Shakespearean character arc. He lost his way after the spectacular start to his captaincy career in England in 2003. He went two-and-a-half years without a Test century between 2005 and 2007 and was often criticised for immaturity or boorishness and embarrassingly misplaced machismo. In 2008, still aged only 27, he matured into the spiritual heir to Steve Waugh he had promised to be on the previous tour of England.
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