England v India, NatWest Challenge, 3rd match, Lord's September 5, 2004

Gough makes his mark for posterity

Fulfilment at last for Darren Gough © Getty Images

This summer has been all about the collective. The England team cause has always come first, and to stunning effect as well. But today at Lord's there was an intensely individual moment for one of its senior members - a moment of fulfilment at the end of a desperately long and hard road.

For a man who has so often been associated with ebullience, Darren Gough's 200th one-day wicket was a strangely poignant affair. The sun has been setting on his international career for several seasons now, and will surely dip below the horizon after the Champions Trophy. But with the wicket of Harbhajan Singh this afternoon, he has made his mark for posterity, and that is all he has ever wanted.

Some sportsmen are motivated by money. For Gough, it has all been about milestones. His successful, chalk-and-cheese, new-ball partnership with Andrew Caddick was fuelled in no small part by the need to outdo each other on a daily basis. Caddick, much to Gough's chagrin, eventually got the better of him in the Test stakes, by 234 wickets to 229, but in English one-day cricket he is peerless. The next most successful bowler, one IT Botham, lags a full 56 wickets behind.

To those newly converted cricket fans - and there will be several of those in England this summer - Gough's celebrations might have seemed a little out of place. It is no longer the done thing to make a big deal of personal achievement: instead the players take their cue from Andrew Flintoff, whose broad grin on being dismissed for 99 at The Oval was typical of the man and the prevailing mood.

But Gough belongs to another era. He is the last of the lost generation of the 1990s, who have been slipping one-by-one out of the side-exit ever since Michael Atherton took his bow in 2001. Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain have gone as well, and Graham Thorpe will not last far beyond the next Ashes series. It was, as Angus Fraser recently admitted, a more selfish generation, where those that rose above the mediocrity did so through their own bloody effort, with little or no support from above or behind. The successful few are fondly recalled for their devotion to the cause, but because they never achieved any lasting success, they are rarely missed.

It is something that Gough knows only too well, but more importantly, so do the England management. There would have been little protest had he not been selected for this summer's campaigns - but he deserves better than that. Without Gough's heartbeat, the side would have flatlined long before Vaughan and Co. had sashayed onto centre stage, and besides, few other players would have fought against such overwhelming odds to regain fitness - and at such a late stage of his career - following his chronic, misdiagnosed, knee injury.

For the time being, Gough stands supreme among English practitioners of one-day cricket. Admittedly, it is not the most glamorous of accolades. Seventeen players from eight nations reached 200 wickets ahead of him and, such is the amount of one-day cricket currently being played, he is bound to be overhauled on the home front as well. But let him enjoy his moment in the limelight. God knows, he has earned it.

Click here for a list of England's leading one-day bowlers.