It’s been something of a Holy Grail for county batsmen, and an achievement that only eight batsmen in cricket history have ever achieved.
I’m referring to the feat in English domestic cricket of scoring 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May – a record achieved by the likes of Don Bradman, Wally Hammond, WG Grace and most recently, in 1988, Graeme Hick, but a feat which eluded some of the game’s finest batsmen, including Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Denis Compton, Len Hutton, Colin Cowdrey and Peter May.
Under the modern programme of four-day County Championship fixtures, such a feat could only be achieved with a series of truly exceptional performances. But with the current domestic season having made it’s earliest-ever start, and with a pair of double-hundreds already under his belt in April, Warwickshire opener Varun Chopra has a real chance of reaching the magic 1,000-run mark before the end of May.
At the start of the season, even the most diehard of Warwickshire fans, or members of Chopra’s family, might have thought twice before venturing his name as someone who might achieve this feat in 2011, especially given the fact that in nine Championship matches last year, Chopra amassed just 409 runs with a top score of 54.
But by the end of the first week of May, Chopra already had 577 first-class runs to his name and, with Warwickshire playing three further Championship games before the start of June, he has a maximum of six innings in which to score the 423 runs he requires to reach this coveted landmark.
Back in 1988, former Worcestershire and England batsman Hick also had a prolific start to the domestic season, posting 212 against Lancashire at Old Trafford and then in early May scoring a monumental 405 not out against Somerset at Taunton.
Even so, he still entered Worcestershire’s final match in May needing 152 runs to reach the landmark and, with the opposition being the West Indies tourists, many wondered if the Zimbabwean-born batsman would join the very exclusive club of batsmen to have score 1,000 runs before the end of May.
It looked to be an even stiffer task when the tourists chose their side for the match at New Road, with their fearsome pace attack lacking only Malcolm Marshall from the likely Test team.
Getting a century at the best of times against the likes of Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop was a major achievement, and with several thousand people crammed into the picturesque ground, there was a real buzz when Hick came out to bat.
It proved to be a special day as – with his parents watching after flying in earlier that day from Zimbabwe – Hick duly reached his century. Then, when he square-cut Ambrose for four to reach 153 there was a standing ovation and handshakes all round to mark his magnificent achievement.
Events in the next few weeks will see whether former Essex batsman Chopra – born in Barking and raised in Ilford – can emulate Hick’s achievement.