LONDON: Alastair Cook drew level with his mentor Graham Gooch by hitting his 20th Test century, giving England the edge on the first day of the first Test match against South Africa at the Oval on Thursday.
Cook made 114 not out as England overcame the loss of captain Andrew Strauss in the first over to reach 267 for three at the close.
His chanceless hundred put him level with fellow Essex stalwart and current England batting coach Gooch.
He also shares the mark with current teammates Strauss and Kevin Pietersen. The England record is 22, shared by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott.
"It's nice to join Goochy. He was a great player and to have the same number of hundreds as him is a very special moment," said Cook.
Cook shared a 170-run second wicket partnership with Jonathan Trott (71) and an 81-run third wicket stand with Kevin Pietersen, who made 42.
Cook and Trott came together without a run on the board after Strauss was leg before wicket to Morne Morkel off the fourth ball of the match.
But Cook and Trott were largely untroubled as they rebuilt the England innings with sensible batting, only playing the ball when it was necessary or when they could pick off loose deliveries.
South Africa's highly rated pace attack was neutralised by solid batting and a dry, easy-paced pitch.
With the number one ranking in Test cricket at stake, it had been expected that the series would be a battle between two outstanding pace attacks but the South Africans were forced to settle for containment for much of the day.
The tourists used spin bowlers for 21 of the 90 overs sent down.
"In the first session the ball nibbled around with the bit of rain and all the clouds but the one thing it did for us was it did it very slowly," said Cook.
"We've had a really good day but we had to work."
South African bowling coach Allan Donald said it had been "a hard day's Test cricket."
"England played well," said Donald. AFP