Beware of the comfort zone

Nick Knight says three centuries do not entitle a player to feel established
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The Independent Online
It is heartening to have scored three international centuries this season. I am proud of that, but I am also aware that consistent levels of performance are required.

The last innings is always the one to put behind you; the one you are about to go out to play is the only one that matters. Start thinking you are in any way settled and you can expect to start failing. If you have scored runs it is natural to feel more comfortable. But there is a significant difference between that and feeling cosy.

This was my attitude last Sunday. I had made a century the day before in the second one-day international against Pakistan but that was history. It was my job to get another, as it will be next time I go out to bat for England - if there is a next time. The winter touring teams are announced this week. I hope I'm there.

Reflecting on the two one-day innings - and, yes, it is flattering to be told that I am the first batsman to score separate hundreds for England on successive days - I was perhaps too expansive too early in the first.

You have to take chances in the first 15 overs and I took them and got away with them. On the following day, with Alec Stewart having been out earlier, it was necessary to temper the aggression slightly.

One of the shots which proved most fruitful for me was the sweep-slog wide of midwicket. Not orthodox, I agree, but it is part of the repertoire I have worked on. I tend to hit it with the spin; most teams leave that sort of space vacant and the stroke has worked.

True, it might not look out of place on a village green but Cow Corner has been a profitable run-scoring area there for generations. My dad, who played for Cambridgeshire, likes it, his frequent advice to me being to put my front foot down the wicket and whack the ball.

The principle to work on all the time is that you can never have too many centuries. This was put into practice for the 127th time the other day by Graham Gooch for Essex against Warwickshire. He is not the sort of player you can afford to drop once. We put him down three times. But he was utterly dominant for all that.

He still looks so assured, so hungry, eager to amass runs. He has got seven hundreds this summer and should do the same next. Gooch has now overtaken WG Grace on the list of century makers. Three more will take him past Len Hutton, although Jack Hobbs's 197 and, of modern players, Geoff Boycott's 151 could prove beyond him. He has also gone beyond Colin Cowdrey, Dennis Amiss and Tom Hayward in total number of runs scored, but may find it difficult to acquire the 3,000 he needs to pass Tom Graveney and get into ninth place.

It was reported that Gooch and I had fallen out as a result of my leaving Essex. We had a long chat earlier this summer which cleared up any misunderstandings. You certainly don't want to be in dispute with a man who has scored 127 hundreds. It is remarkable that he remains so prodigious and still enjoys the game so much at 43. I would like to think I could go on so long. Only 17 years to go.

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