THERE can't be many better ways to celebrate your birthday than with a Test century, and that's exactly what England's vice captain and opener Alastair Cook managed on day three of the second Test at Kingsmead, Durban, yesterday.
The fact that he also achieved the distinction of becoming England's youngest player to notch up 50 Test matches goes a long way to explaining why he is held in such high esteem by the team's management.
They resisted calls for a change at the top of the batting order after Cook had a recent run of bad form.
Despite missing out in both innings last week at SuperSport Park, Cook repaid the faith by stroking his way to an impressive 118 before falling victim to Morne Morkel.
His knock was one of minimum risk. The good balls he played with respect, the bad ones he dispatched with disdain.
The fact that he scored only 10 boundaries in his 10th Test century illustrates how he worked the ball around the wicket for several twos and threes.
Backing up Cook at the other end for a large part of the day was the evergreen Paul Collingwood, who was dismissed on 91.
The two appeared to have a good understanding out in the middle and as the day progressed the runs flowed freely.
A major concern for Proteas captain Graham Smith is the below-par performance of his bowling attack.
Apart from Morkel, the rest merely plugged away.
Makhaya Ntini - playing in his 101st Test match - once again looked out of sorts. His first spell on Sunday of only three overs went for 25 runs and yesterday he again went wicketless.
With so much time already lost to rain and bad light it looks unlikely a result will be achieved in this Test.
It will require the brilliance of an individual with the ball. Let's hope Ntini is the man!