Nothing beats the buzz of the century

Nick Knight, the England batsman, was happy to wait for his first Test hundred
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The Independent Online
It Was a huge moment. For a few minutes afterwards it was impossible not to keep looking at the scoreboard in case somebody came along and took all the runs away. But there the figures stayed. It was true then. I had actually scored a century for England.

The rush of joy and emotion at Headingley seven days ago was amazing. A dream had come true. A Test hundred. The ecstasy probably revealed itself. Had the ground been as full and as vibrant as on the previous day a few cartwheels from the batsman could not have been ruled out.

But there was still a lot to do. England's hopes of gaining a substantial lead probably depended on their new No 6 staying around, taking most of the strike, scoring runs. And we weren't ahead by more than a handful. It was therefore disappointing to get out when I did. Of course I was pleased. But the job had not been completed.

Looking back on the match now and looking forward to the final Test of the series against Pakistan, there is plenty about which England can be positive. Perhaps the side did not wish to be confronted with a Pakistan total of 458 having asked them to bat first in the second Test. Oh, all right, we definitely didn't wish it.

However, the bowlers took a lot of criticism for their performances on the first morning when I went in to lunch believing we were unlucky. On another day a few more balls could have taken the edge and five wickets could have fallen.

Pakistan's accumulation of a few more runs than most of us might have liked did not deter the batsmen. The response was firm and fluent. The easing pitch may have helped in this regard but so too did our preparations. These included facing a bowling machine which hurled viciously swinging yorkers ball after ball. There's nothing like 30 to 50 of those to get you ready.

We knew what to expect. Batsmen make their own contingency plans. Tips are regularly being given in the dressing-room. I have taken to batting outside my crease to face Waqar Younis to dim the potential effects of his late, late swing.

Nothing was said when Pakistan's innings ended. Nothing needed to be said. We knew that to have any chance of winning we had to get close reasonably quickly. England went in pursuit of the target immediately. If this was heartening, it was also odd that I was watching this on the dressing-room television on Friday night instead of opening the batting. Of course, I prefer opening, that's what I do but I accept the England situation. I knew it was between Alec Stewart and me when the squad was selected. I'm just glad to be in. The choice between batting No 6 and not playing at all is, you should know, not a hard one to make. And how well Stewart played.

Still, watching and waiting and waiting was peculiar. Coming off the pitch after fielding, the awareness hits you that you could be in after four balls (unlikely) or be waiting an awfully long time. Saturday was a long day as England set to their task. I watched the play outside this time, getting used to the light, still with that sense of not knowing when I might be needed. Very odd.

The last time I batted No 6 was when I was playing for Essex. That was at Ilford two years ago and the occasion before that was at Headingley a couple of weeks earlier against Yorkshire. I can't say the experience was invaluable or full of precedent. I got 18. Nor was I aware that the England No 6 spot has been littered with casualties these past few years. It's not something players tend to keep check of. Maybe just as well, I suppose. You never know what sort of effect it might have had.

Things went well as soon as I got in. I felt in form. But focusing on the cricket so hard for so long from the balcony had quite taken it out of me. By the time play finished on Saturday night, I might have been batting all day for the condition my body and brain were in.

A word on the Headingley crowd. Much has been said and written about their misbehaviour and it is quite right to condemn their excesses. But it is entertaining to play there because they are so involved and they do lift you. There is a sense of excitement.

The buzz of the century has not yet dissipated. There has hardly been time to muse on it. Back to Edgbaston with Warwickshire on Thursday and a testing pitch. I got 63 but dearly wanted a second consecutive hundred. You might think that greedy. But even when the game is running with such smooth delight you can never, believe me, have enough runs.

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