Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test centuries, by Patrick Ferriday & Dave Wilson

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The Independent Culture

Two hundreds this week by England batsmen in the warm-up games before the Ashes series starts in Brisbane on 21 November. But they will soon be forgotten, whereas to score a Test century is to be remembered forever.

Which, though, have been the very best three-figure Test feats? Impossible to answer, given the infinite number of variables, but the authors of Masterly Batting have a jolly good stab at it. They are not the first to do so but this attempt has far more analytical heft. A panel marked each candidate in 10 categories, including impact on match and series as a whole, quality of conditions and bowling attack, weight and speed of scoring, chances given, and runs scored as a percentage of the total. The panel then gave each category a weighting in terms of how they deemed its relative importance to create an overall score.

While it all sounds deceptively scientific, all the judgements are, of course, ultimately subjective, but the overarching theme gives the entries, written by various hands, a satisfying coherence. There is certainly plenty to argue about. Is Ian Botham's astonishing 149 at Headingley in 1981 worth only 50th place? Does Michael Clarke's 151 at Cape Town against South Africa in 2011 (in a match when, for the first time, a batsman from each side was dismissed twice in the same day) deserve to be as high as 25, as it was in a losing cause? And so on. Apart from some eccentric design decisions – no contents page, for instance – it's all thoroughly enjoyable, and well executed. And the winner? Graham Gooch's 154 not out against West Indies at Headingley in 1991, as remembered by his team-mate Derek Pringle. Let's hope that in the next few months one or more of England's batsmen create the need for a swift update.

Published in hardback by Von Krumm, £15