On 6 September 1880, WG Grace, opening the England innings at The Oval with his brother EM Grace, made 152 against Australia in the fourth-ever Test match.
It was the first Test century scored by an England batsman; 928 matches later, at the Basin Reserve in New Zealand, Nick Compton scored the latest, thus cementing his position in the England team for the foreseeable future.
It was 11 innings over six years before the doctor made a second hundred; Compton's was his second in successive innings following his maiden effort at University Oval in Dunedin. Which is harder, not physically but mentally? Is it the barrier posed by raising the bat for the first time or is it overcoming an inner demon that says until you do it again, the first might forever be seen as a fluke?
From WG to Compton, there have been 155 England batsmen who have made Test match hundreds. Of these, only 101 have gone on to repeat the feat, which leaves 54 who may never know whether or not they truly made it.
Compton's first hundred came on the back of a first innings at a time when there were doubts as to whether he could secure his place. The series in India had brought him mixed success with scores of 9, 37, 29, 30*, 57, 9*, 3 and 34 showing character in that he contributed to opening partnerships with Alastair Cook of 26, 123, 66, 58*, 165, 4, 3 and 48. He did a job in blunting the new ball but was unable to kick on to gain the reward his early diligence demanded. In Dunedin's second innings his was brave batting, a show of strength.
In Wellington, he played more freely, as if unencumbered by doubt and not so consumed with the landmark. He was more relaxed, although the manner of his dismissal, a loose shot only six balls after reaching three figures and of a kind he would not have played 10 minutes earlier, still told of a lifting of a weight.
True acceptance, especially in dressing rooms with its gnarly old lags, only comes with repeated success, not flash in the pan. Compton has earned his acceptance.
It has not been an easy path, though. From 2004 to 2009, with Middlesex, he averaged around 34 with the bat.
Since he joined Somerset in 2010, he has averaged almost twice that, scoring 1,098 runs at 57.78 in 2011 and backing that up with 1,494 at 99.6 last summer, coming within a whisker of scoring 1,000 runs before the end of May at a time when most other batsmen struggled to cope with flirty pitches.
The transformation in his game came first of all with the Somerset director of cricket, Brian Rose, giving him a clearly defined role involving batting at his own pace irrespective of what was happening around him.
But then alongside that has been the work he has done with Neil Burns, the former Somerset, Essex and Leicester wicketkeeper-batsman, whose organisation, the London County Cricket Club (resurrecting that for which WG played), provides a mentoring service from which Monty Panesar has also benefited.
There have been two key periods in which this input has helped. First came the idea that he needed to back up his successful 2011 season with another, the sort of thing he had been unable to do before; and then came an evaluation of his performance in India and preparation for the New Zealand tour.
"With Nick," Burns explained, "performance coaching London County mentoring has centred on the integration of three key areas: in mental clarity, emotional fitness and technical excellence.
"My role has been to offer professional guidance and emotional support to help him transition through the various phases of his career and life. I hope he can continue to experience all that top-class cricket has to offer as I believe it will be the reward of hard work and significant investment in himself over time."
"He is very tenacious and determined. He refuses to give up, even when his back is right up against the wall – he finds a way to survive and make a future for himself. Batting is so much like life, you never know what is around the corner, but you can prepare well.
"In Nick's preparation for NZ with myself and Dr Ken Jennings in Johannesburg during early February, we 'unpacked' his Indian tour experience and highlighted how ... he overcame some unique challenges as an opening batsman on his first tour and developed a solid partnership with a new captain and opening partner.
"Then we refocused him on the challenges ahead. The key message is to acknowledge the importance of 'being fully present', which over the past 12 months has supported his progress."
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