Boycott's 100th hundred - Headingley 1977
Boycott has spent his entire career dividing opinions, but for the 22,000 Yorkshiremen who turned up to Headingley for the fourth Ashes Test in 1977, he was quite simply an object of mass affection. A self-imposed exile had kept Boycott away from Test cricket for three years, but his return to the fray coincided with his ascent towards a landmark that, to this day, has been reached by just 25 batsmen in the history of the game. Five days earlier, at Edgbaston, he had notched up his 99th hundred for Yorkshire against Warwickshire, and Boycott felt the weight of expectation squarely on his shoulders - the day he would later recall as the "greatest and most memorable of my life" began with a fitful night's sleep in a hot and sweaty hotel room, and he even overslept, to put his mindset further out of kilter. But once the jitters had been overcome, the ruthless run-maker returned to the fore, and shortly before 6pm, an on-drive off Greg Chappell sparked pandemonium.
Alec Stewart's 100th Test - Old Trafford 2000
Stewart and Mike Atherton were England's stalwarts of the 1990s, and by a quirk of fate, both notched up their 100th Test appearance in the very same match, against West Indies at Old Trafford in August 2000. But despite having their fates intertwined for a decade, Stewart and Atherton could hardly have been more contrasting characters, and their responses to a momentous occasion bordered on the stereotypical. Atherton's career-long aversion to hype kicked in with a vengeance as he marked his milestone, on his home ground to boot, with a scratchy 1 from 16 balls. Stewart, on the other hand, marched to the crease with starched collar and ramrod-straight back, and - to the thunderous delight of a packed Lancastrian crowd - dominated the innings with an imperious 14th Test century. The fact that he achieved his feat on the Queen Mother's 100th birthday was an added bonus for a staunch patriot.
Ian Botham's world record - Oval 1986
"Who writes your scripts?" was Graham Gooch's famous quip as Botham barrelled back into the limelight, and beyond, against New Zealand at The Oval in 1986. It was Beefy's first and only home Test of a desperate year, which had begun with a 0-5 whitewash in the Caribbean, and was then interrupted by a two-month ban after his admission to smoking cannabis. But when he finally got a chance to translate his frustrations into action, he did not disappoint. His first ball of the match, to Bruce Edgar, was wafted to Gooch at second slip to draw him level with Dennis Lillee on 355 Test wickets, and 11 balls later Jeff Crowe was nailed lbw to hand him the outright world record.
Shane Warne's 700th wicket - Melbourne 2006-07
Given the conditions, Warne had absolutely no right to rip through England on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test in 2006-07. The weather was as dank and miserable as the mood in the visitors' dressing room, and when Andrew Flintoff won a Hobson's choice of a toss with Glenn McGrath pawing at the damp turf, there seemed only one possible mode of execution. Warne, however, had been a ubiquitous presence all month. In Perth eight days earlier, he had sealed the Ashes with his 699th Test wicket, and with history at his beck and call, he returned to his home city of Melbourne to announce his impending retirement. From that moment on, he ceased to operate on the same plain as his victims. Andrew Strauss duly became his landmark victim, and before a cold and autumnal day was out, Monty Panesar had provided him with the 37th five-wicket haul of his career.
Aminul Islam in Bangladesh's maiden Test - Dhaka 2000
Nearly a decade has passed since Bangladesh were unveiled as cricket's 10th Test nation, and in that time they have managed just three Test victories in 61 attempts. Yet the disillusionment of those statistics could not be further removed from the optimism of Bangladesh's beginnings - in particular the fervent reception given to Aminul in Dhaka in November 2000, when he marked his country's inaugural Test with a nine-hour 145. Aminul's effort matched the feats of Charles Bannerman for Australia in 1877 and David Houghton for Zimbabwe in 1992 - the only other players to make three figures in their country's maiden Test - and it hoisted Bangladesh to an unlikely first-innings total of 400. Alas, the giddy heights did not last. India rolled them for 91 second time around to win by nine wickets, but Aminul's personal fame and fortune was secured there and then.
Sachin Tendulkar's hundred after the Mumbai terrorist attacks - Chennai 2008
With the sound of gunshots still reverberating across the nation, Tendulkar produced his ultimate response to the terrorist murders in his home city of Mumbai. After nearly two decades in the game, Tendulkar had broken almost every run-scoring record around. But ever since he fell so agonisingly short of steering India to victory over Pakistan on the same ground in 1999, doubts had lingered over his ability to win Tests for India in the fourth innings. This time, set an unlikely 387, he patiently guided India home, hitting the winning runs and completing his 41st Test hundred. The innings set up a series victory and eased a nation's pain.
Michael Vaughan's comeback Test - Headingley 2007
After an agonising 18-month period out with injury, in which the team he so carefully assembled and skilfully guided to Ashes triumph had crumbled entirely, Vaughan was finally ready to return to Test cricket. Coming out to bat on his home ground of Headingley, Vaughan faced a limp West Indian attack on the field but an army of detractors around the country who questioned his right to waltz straight back into the side. After such a protracted period out of the game there were also suspicions that his fragile body could no longer match the steely mind that occupied it. Vaughan had vocally extolled his own virtues in the lead up to the game, declaring that "the best thing [for England] is to get Michael Vaughan fit and playing well". Finally he let his bat make the statements instead, with an emotional 103. The hardened Yorkshire crowd couldn't disguise their delight in scenes that recalled those witnessed 30 years before with Boycott's 100th hundred.
Courtney Walsh's record-breaking 435th Test wicket - Kingston 2000
Walsh had played Test cricket for 16 years going into West Indies' second Test against Zimbabwe in 2000. In that time he had collected 430 wickets in a period that had seen West Indies fall from being the undisputed kings of the game to inconsistent stragglers. Walsh, however, had just kept getting better. In front of his native Jamaican crowd, he came into the game needing five wickets to surpass Kapil Dev as the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. Having taken two in the first innings and removed the openers in the second to take him level, he had to wait until his 16th over, with the last Zimbabwean pair at the wicket, for the record-breaking dismissal. Henry Olonga was caught by Wavell Hinds to cue the celebrations of an ecstatic crowd.
Ricky Ponting's 100th Test - Sydney 2005-06
It was the first Australian summer since Ponting had succumbed to the English in 2005, and under intense pressure over his captaincy, he was a man possessed by the mission of revenge. His immediate response was a Bradmanesque glut of run-scoring that swept aside the touring West Indies and put Australia one up after two Tests against South Africa. In the final match of the series, his 100th, the tourists posted 451 and Australia were struggling at 54 for 3 in reply. Ponting, in the words of Wisden, "donned his shining armour and galloped to the rescue with a display of shot-making and placement so good nobody would have believed it was merely a preview to the main show". That main show was an unbeaten 143, at nearly a run a ball, in the second innings that made a mockery of the 287-in-76-overs run-chase offered up by Graeme Smith's declaration.
Steve Waugh's final Ashes Test - Sydney 2003-04
For an iron-willed and flint-eyed competitor like Waugh, sentiment doesn't rank high on a list of priorities. Yet even he was moved to describe his hundred in his final Ashes Test match, on his home ground of Sydney, as a "Cinderella story". A lean series had prompted the Australian media to begin rumblings about retirement and the selectors only magnified the pressure by publicly stating Waugh couldn't be guaranteed a place on the tour to West Indies that followed the Ashes. But walking out to bat at 56 for 3 chasing 362, Waugh found himself in the situation he thrived in most. After calmly working his way to 50 he unleashed a flurry of boundaries that gave him a chance, in the final over of the day, of reaching a hundred. With a delirious new-year crowd urging him on, two were needed from the final ball of Richard Dawson's over. Waugh slashed through the line, with the quick hands that featured throughout his career, and the ball raced to the cover boundary.
Dickie Bird's last Test - Lord's 1996
As Darrell Hair demonstrated at The Oval in 2006, it's not healthy for an umpire to become the centre of attention - on those fateful occasions, it all tends to end in tears. Some tears, however, are more forgivable than others, and those shed by the venerable Bird at Lord's in 1996 were purely of the sentimental variety. The second Test against India was his 66th and last, in a career spanning 24 seasons, and as he emerged from the pavilion on the first morning of the match, the ovation he received would have moved even Don Bradman or Viv Richards. The players formed a guard of honour as he dabbed his eyes with a hankie, although in hindsight, England's captain, Atherton, might wish he had dispensed with the pleasantries. Throughout his career, Bird had been sparing with his lbws, but now - from Javagal Srinath's fifth ball of the match - his finger shot skywards without a moment's compunction, and the skipper was on his way for a duck.