Alastair Cook had two other Essex openers on his mind after hitting his 20th Test century to give England a perfect start to their eagerly-awaited series against South Africa.
Cook's unbeaten 114 out of a first-day total of 267 for three brought him level with Graham Gooch, the England batting coach who has been a long-term mentor, in the upper echelons of England's list of Test century makers, and now only two behind the all-time record shared by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott.
But more poignantly for Cook the innings came only three days after he had attended the funeral of David Randall, a former opening partner with Essex junior teams, the Maldon club and also south of England representative sides, who recently died of cancer at the age of 27.
"It was an emotional time and when you score hundreds the emotion is right up there," said Cook, who had gone 17 innings since making his 19th Test century, a monumental 294 against India at Edgbaston last summer. "We're lucky enough to play cricket – unfortunately he can't any more."
Cook had spent most of last weekend "moving sheep or whatever" on his wife's farm as he took a break after leading England to their 4-0 win against Australia in the NatWest one-day international series. But he did squeeze in a couple of extra practice sessions with Gooch, whose 20 Test centuries came in 215 Test innings whereas Cook's have taken only 141.
"It's nice to join Goochy," added Cook, who hooked a sixth Test six off Dale Steyn during his innings. "Obviously he was a great player and to have the same number of hundreds as him is very special for me. I think it's been a year since my last one, and when you've got so close a couple of times it was a special moment."
South Africa's bowling coach, Allan Donald, praised Cook for "immense discipline and concentration in the way he left the ball – he made us come to him at times".
With Jonathan Trott contributing a typically unfussy 71 to a second-wicket stand of 170 with Cook, there were only two significant disappointments for England. Andrew Strauss fell for a duck to the fourth ball of the series after winning the toss, lbw to Morne Morkel, and Kevin Pietersen failed to make the emphatic statement many had expected after he dominated much of the build-up with his unsuccessful attempt to find a way back into the Twenty20 squad.
Pietersen moved effortlessly to 42 before falling caught behind hooking at Jacques Kallis, which Donald confirmed was a huge boost to the tourists as it came immediately before the second new ball was due. "Kallis was a little bit angry, I'm not sure whether with himself or whatever, and he took it up like he can," Donald added. "The wicket of Pietersen was a big one for us at that stage with the new ball due. It was a hard day's Test cricket, but overall I would take that day."
He said that Morkel "fancies himself against Strauss. He knows he's got a bit of a psychological advantage, his record proves that, and yet again he didn't disappoint."
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