What batting feat has Ajit Agarkar, who once held the record for the most consecutive ducks, achieved that master batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Rahul Dravid have not? Give up? Agarkar has his named engraved on the honours board at Lord's for the defiant hundred he made in India's defeat to England at the famous ground in 2002.
Since 1884, when England and Australia played the first Test at the spiritual home of cricket, the venue has hosted 120 games of the longer version and 210 centuries have been scored in those matches, earning those players - along with those who have taken five wickets - a place in history on the board. But, astonishingly, the names of Ponting, Tendulkar, Dravid or Lara, the decorated quartet who have racked up 149 Test centuries between them and broken countless records in the game, are missing. Lara, the West Indian left-hander, has retired while there is no date planned for India's next tour of England, meaning Tendulkar and Dravid, who are both 37, may have played their last game on the hallowed turf.
Ponting will be 38 by the time Australia return to Lord's for the Ashes Test and he will hope his scores of 26 and nought against Pakistan this week were not his last contribution at the bastion of cricket. Ponting, however, was pragmatic about the possibility of finishing his career without a century at Lord's. "I have not got a great record at Lord's as far as Test cricket is concerned," he said before the start of the current Test. "I made a one-day hundred there, which is obviously a nice feeling. I honestly look at Lord's as being no different to any other ground in the world as far as wanting to make a hundred there ? it would be nice to make a hundred there. But if that doesn't happen, there's not much I can do about it."
Tendulkar seems more determined to address the one glaring omission to his cricket resume. "This is the ground all the players dream of getting a hundred," Tendulkar said before his last Test at Lord's, in 2007. "I am no different. I would want to get one. "I don't want to put any pressure on myself on that because of not being able to do that. In Test cricket I have not been able to do that, but in the game between MCC XI and Rest of the World I had managed to get one."
The emotions of reaching the three-figure mark at Lord's are high. Tamim Iqbal, the exuberant Bangladesh opener and the last man to achieve that feat, had an anxious overnight wait before he could get his name on the honours board. "I was just speaking to Pete who looks after the honours board and the players, and I asked if he can make a 50 board for me, but he said, 'No, you'll get there'," Iqbal said after his century in May.
"So I promised him I wouldn't leave Lord's without a hundred and now I've done it, I'm really proud." After reaching the three-figure mark against the West Indies last year, Ravi Bopara, the England all-rounder, was immediately thinking about the board as well. "I signalled to the boys to get my name on the honours board," said Bopara, explaining his writing gesture after crossing into three-figures.
"When you come to Lord's for county matches or one-day matches you wonder if your name will ever be up there. It's a very proud moment." Should Ponting remain fit and in form for the Ashes tour in 2013, he would be well-served to draw inspiration from the late Sid Barnes. In 1948, as part of Sir Don Bradman's visiting "Invincibles", Barnes, who once fielded as a 12th man with a suit and tie on, made a duck in the first innings but followed it with a 141 in the second.
If Ponting does not return to England and finishes his illustrious career without a century at Lord's, he will find himself in illustrious company. Sunil Gavaskar, the Indian great, scored 34 Test centuries, but not one at Lord's. Pakistan's Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad. Sri Lanka's Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya are also notable absentees. Legends like Neil Harvey, Ian Chappell and Clive Lloyd are missing as well, and so also some of the greats of the modern era such as Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Stephen Fleming. Present-day heavyweights like Jacques Kallis, Virender Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara are still waiting. Perhaps the most heartbreaking near miss came in 1993 when Michael Atherton, the dogged England opener, was run out on 99.
So, there is some solace for Ponting there, but as Graham Gooch, who scored six Test centuries at Lord's for England, once said: "There is no better place to score a hundred." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org