Apprentice Cook happy to fire
Alastair Cook expressed pride at drawing level with Graham Gooch on 20 Test centuries after batting through the opening day of the Investec Series against South Africa at the Kia Oval.
Cook's chanceless unbeaten 114 underpinned an admirable batting effort from England after captain Andrew Strauss had fallen lbw to the fourth ball of the day.
Jonathan Trott contributed 71 to a second-wicket stand of 170 and Kevin Pietersen added a breezy 42 as the hosts reached 267 for three at stumps.
Yet it was Cook who stole the show by registering his first three-figure score in Tests since his sensational 294 against India at Edgbaston last summer.
England's vice-captain has twice scored 94 since that innings and said of today's knock: "It was very satisfying.
"It's nice to join Goochie. Clearly he was a great player and to have the same amount of hundreds of him is very special.
"Every little landmark means something. I remember going from nine to 10 - and I think that was against South Africa as well (in Durban in 2009) - and to go from 19 to 20 had the same kind of feeling, especially after waiting a while and getting close a couple of times."
Pietersen is another member of the current England side with 20 Test tons to his name, while skipper Andrew Strauss has 21 and Ian Bell 16.
"It's a very comforting feeling to look around and see players who have scored a lot of hundreds in our top order," Cook added. "That can breed confidence, but we always look at statistics after and when you're playing you don't worry about that kind of thing."
The opener was particularly pleased not to have offered up a single opportunity in facing 283 deliveries.
"Every hundred is a good hundred but I don't think I gave a chance today," he continued. "I felt in total control and I thought I left the ball nicely."
Cook also revealed he had put in some unusual preparation for this three-match rubber by working long hours on his farm.
"I started at 10 o'clock in the morning the day after the Australia (one-day international) series and I didn't stop until pretty much Monday morning when we met up here," he explained.
"It seems to work alright. I had a couple of sessions with Goochie and his dog-stick (ball-throwing device) during that time. Any other time I was moving sheep or whatever!"
South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald retained a positive outlook on his side's position.
"I really thought we stuck to our task well today," said the 45-year-old.
"We obviously got off to a great start with Strauss' wicket. There were times that I thought we could have been a little more aggressive in certain situations, but we never allowed England to run away with the day.
"I think it was pretty much a hard day's Test cricket. Take nothing away from England; I thought they batted really well and Alastair Cook showed immense discipline and concentration in how he left the ball. He made us come to him at times.
"We've got to make inroads tomorrow early. That's our big goal, to open up an end and carry it on from there. It's a huge day for us tomorrow."
Donald also bristled at suggestions that premier paceman Dale Steyn, who was seen with heavy strapping on his right foot, had been hampered by an injury en route to figures of 0-62 from 21 overs.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with Dale Steyn," he barked. "I do not know where this rumour came from and I can assure you that Dale Steyn is absolutely fine."