Cricinfo XI April 4, 2006

Centuries of Tests

Justin Langer's 100th Test this week lasted precisely one ball, after he was felled by the opening delivery of Australia's innings at Johannesburg. And recently Rahul Dravid pooped his own centenary party, by inserting England at Mumbai and presiding over

Justin Langer's 100th Test this week lasted precisely one ball, after he was felled by the opening delivery of Australia's innings at Johannesburg. And recently Rahul Dravid pooped his own centenary party, by inserting England at Mumbai and presiding over a series-levelling defeat. Landmark Tests can take many forms, and here Cricinfo recalls 11 of the most (or least) memorable. Scandalised by our selection? Send your thoughts to feedback.

Colin Cowdrey: the first Test centurion of his type © The Cricketer

Colin Cowdrey - Edgbaston 1968
No fewer than 38 international cricketers are members of the 100-Test club, with three more scheduled to join the next fortnight, when the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand gets underway on Easter Saturday. But in July 1968, Colin Cowdrey became the first man to do so, and he did so in style as well, with a cool 104 against Australia at Edgbaston. He was made to wait for the moment, however. The first day of the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled, and he finished the second unbeaten on 95. He eventually reached the mark early on the third day, but the rain had the final say when play was abandoned after lunch on the final day, with Australia needing an improbable 330 for victory.

Gordon Greenidge - Antigua 1989-90
England's rag-tag army had shaken the Caribbean to its foundations after winning a sensational first Test at Jamaica by nine wickets, and had come within an ace of taking a 2-0 lead in Trinidad, before rain came to the rescue at Port-of-Spain. But West Indies regrouped through a Curtly Ambrose onslaught in Barbados and by the time the teams landed in Antigua for the series decider, England's battle-weary squad was on its last legs. It was an apt setting for the greatest opening partnership in Test history to do what they do best. Greenidge, in his 100th Test, and Haynes added 298 for the first wicket - 38 runs more than England had mustered in the first innings - and the world order was belatedly restored with a crushing innings-and-32-run victory.

Ian Botham - Wellington 1991-92
Past glories were fading fast as a portly Ian Botham made his belated arrival in Wellington for England's pre-World Cup tour of New Zealand. With more than half an eye on his post-playing days, he had been granted permission to miss the early exchanges of the tour while he finished his pantomime stint as the King in Jack and the Beanstalk, and only got his chance to feature in the Tests when Derek Pringle pulled out through injury. In a match that was overshadowed by David Lawrence's agonising kneecap injury, Botham grabbed two more wickets to take his England record to 383, but in two further Tests the following summer, he failed to add to that tally.

Atherton and Stewart: chalk and cheese © Getty Images

Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton - Old Trafford 2000
As England's stalwarts of the 1990s, Atherton and Stewart were like chalk and cheese, but nothing revealed more about their contrasting characters than the events of their 100th Test. Having reached the landmark together amid a pre-match fanfare, Atherton skulked straight back into the shadows with scores of 1 and 28, but Stewart lapped up the adulation and repaid his devotees with a brilliantly aggressive 105. A Royalist and a patriot, the fact that he scored his runs on the Queen Mother's 100th birthday made the moment all the more memorable.

Ricky Ponting - Sydney 2005-06
Centuries in your 100th Test have been old hat ever since Cowdrey set down his benchmark in the 1960s, but twin hundreds to seal a series victory? That's something else entirely, and Ponting achieved his feat the hard way as well. He ground out a first-innings 120 that kept South Africa's lead to a manageable 92, before launching into Australia's run-chase with a gusto scarcely matched before or since. A day lost to rain meant Graeme Smith had been forced to set a challenging declaration, but Australia were still left needing 289 in a minimum of 76 overs. Ponting, however, blazed his way to an unbeaten 143 from 159 balls, as the series was wrapped up with eight wickets and 15 overs to spare.

Graham Thorpe - Chester-le-Street 2005
It could have been a metaphor for England's lost generation. Graham Thorpe was arguably England's finest batsman of the 1990s, but his 100th Test was an appropriately bittersweet affair. It came against an outclassed Bangladesh at a sleepy Chester-le-Street, at a time when the entire nation was focussed on the impending Ashes battle. With competition for places increasing all the time, Thorpe had everything to lose and nothing to gain. He dead-panned his way to an unbeaten 66 as England won by an innings and plenty, but two months later he was out on his ear as England opted for youth over experience, and retired from the game soon afterwards.

Graham Gooch - Calcutta 1992-93
Given the form he had shown over the previous two years, Graham Gooch seemed a fair bet to mark his 100th Test appearance with his 100th first-class century. Instead, the match at Calcutta came and went in a smog of confusion. Gooch's first mistake came with his team selection - where India opted for a three-spinner attack, England placed their faith in four seamers, with neither Phil Tufnell nor John Emburey deemed worthy of a game. Unsurprisingly, they were up against it from the word go, and after trailing by 208 on first innings, it seemed that elusive Gooch century was their only hope of salvation. Instead, in a dazed performance, he forgot to anchor his back foot behind the popping crease, and an alert Kiran More stumped him for 18 to complete a miserable match.

Salim Malik - Lahore 1998-99
Malik's nefarious dealings with bookmakers were still 18 months from being confirmed, but the rumblings were rife amid a turbulent period for Pakistan cricket. Against a backdrop of suspicion, Pakistan had slipped to a first-Test defeat against the less-than-mighty Zimbabweans, and at Lahore the late withdrawals of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Aamir Sohail further destabilised the squad. Sohail claimed to be suffering from a stomach complaint, but this excuse cut no ice with the conspiracy theorists, who saw it as a protest against Malik's inclusion. In the event, Malik made just 2 before being run out, in a match that was decimated by fog. One week later, the Faisalabad Test was abandoned without a ball being bowled, and Zimbabwe had claimed their first overseas series win.

Dileep Vengsarkar - Mumbai 1988-89
During a golden run of form in the mid-1980s, Dileep Vengsarkar had been the No. 1 batsman in the world. He rattled up eight hundreds in 16 Tests, including two in England in 1986, and two at home to the mighty West Indies. But his golden run deserted him almost as suddenly as it had arrived, and the beginning of the end came in his 100th Test, against the unassuming New Zealanders at Mumbai. He made 25 and 0, the first time in 14 Tests that he had been dismissed for less than 50 in both innings of the match, and from that moment on the spell had been broken. He averaged 20.65 for the remainder of his career, against an overall average of 42.13, with just four fifties in 26 innings.

Javed Miandad - Lahore 1989-90
A typically attritional Indo-Pak affair at Lahore, in which batsman after batsman stuck to the crease like glue to render the contest utterly meaningless. But it was a triumph nonetheless for Javed Miandad, who marked his 100th match with his 22nd Test century, and his eighth in 15 matches. After India's Sanjay Manjrekar had racked up a nine-hour 218 in a total of 509, Miandad had licence to bat for as long as he cared, and did so in partnership with Shoaib Mohammad, who made a career-best 203 not out. Miandad added one more hundred in the remaining 24 matches of his illustrious career.

Kapil Dev - Karachi 1989-90
Unsurprisingly, this is a batsman-dominated list. Of the 38 players to play 100 Tests, a mere seven were selected primarily for their bowling, and of these three were spinners. The last word, therefore, goes to the man who had arguably the most thankless task in world cricket - Kapil Dev, who spearheaded India's pace attack for 16 years and 131 Tests, and was for a time the leading wicket-taker in the world. His ascent towards that final summit slowed to a crawl, but at the time of his 100th Test he was still going extremely strong indeed. In the series opener against Pakistan - Tendulkar's debut, coincidentally - he grabbed seven wickets in the match to keep India in contention, then contributed an invaluable 55 to rescue them from 85 for 6 in their first innings. The match was drawn, but not before India had made decent strides towards an improbable target of 453 - they closed on 303 for 3.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo