Alastair Cook has joined rare company in a fairytale final appearance for England, scoring a century on day four of the fifth Test against India at The Oval.
Cook brought up triple figures in amusing fashion shortly before lunch, reaching the milestone courtesy of four overthrows. But while it may not have happened the way he'd imagined, it wasn't going to stop the elated opener celebrating with captain Joe Root in front of delighted teammates and a vocal crowd.
Cook becomes just the fifth batsman to score centuries in both his first and last Tests, alongside Reggie Duff (1902-1905), Bill Ponsford (1924-1934), Greg Chappell (1970-1984) and Mohammad Azharuddin (1984-2000).
The left-hander, playing in his 161st Test, scored 104no against India at Nagpur on debut in March 2006.
It was a double delight for Cook, who had earlier passed Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakkara (12,400 runs) to become Test cricket’s fifth-highest run scorer, and the top left-hander.
The opener had resumed on 46 on Monday looking to reach triple figures in Test cricket for the 33rd time after being dismissed for 71 in England’s first innings.
On Sunday, England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said Cook – who announced his retirement in the lead-up to the final Test – would be sorely missed.
"I think he's just enjoying milking all the applause he's getting," Farbrace said jokingly before, on a more serious note, adding: "He's just driving on to bat as long as he possibly can. It would be fantastic if he was to get to 100 but I think he's just played really well.
"It's not easy out there. It's been quite tough but it looks as though he’s really enjoying the scrap.”
Farbrace described the standing ovation the crowd gave the "down-to-earth" Cook as he walked out to bat as moving.
"He just seems to cope with everything that's in front of him and I think as much as we're going to miss his runs and his catches, I think the calming influence that he has among the team, among the staff among everybody," he said.
"What he manages to do is make everyone feel very welcome, very part of things, young players, old players.”
Cook, who will continue to play for Essex next year, is retiring from international cricket with a stack of England records to his name including most Test appearances, most runs and most centuries.
MOST TEST RUNS
Sachin Tendulkar (India) – 15,921 runs
Ricky Ponting (Australia) – 13,378
Jacques Kallis (South Africa) – 13,289
Rahul Dravid (India) – 13,288
Alastair Cook (England) – 12,428 (at lunch on day four)
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – 12,400