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Cook sees Essex to victory on day three

Alastair Cook hit an untroubled century as Essex clinched the first victory of their return to the Specsavers County Championship top flight with an eight-wicket success against Somerset at Taunton.

The former England captain looked in prime form, easing his way to 110 on a third day that saw his side chase down a target of 255 from an overnight ten for no wicket. Tom Westley contributed an unbeaten 86, sharing a second-wicket stand of 134 with Cook, whose chanceless hundred occupied 202 balls.

Nick Browne made 38 before falling to a poor shot off Jamie Overton with the total on 82. It was Somerset’s only breakthrough of the morning session on a placid pitch that seemed a world away from the low scoring during the match.

Essex claimed 19 points, while Somerset had to be content with four. Young skipper Tom Abell continually switched his bowling attack, making liberal use of pace and spin. But a combination of clear blue skies and a lifeless wicket brought only frustration.

Cook and Browne batted with confidence from the outset and it was a major surprise when Browne slashed hard at a short, wide ball from Overton, edging a catch to wicketkeeper Steve Davies. By lunch Cook and Westley had taken the total to 101 for one from 41 overs and already the outcome looked beyond doubt.

So it proved as Cook, who had reached his half-century from 92 balls, continued to display immaculate shot selection in moving relentlessly towards three figures.

First Westley got to fifty, from 87 balls, with 9 fours, batting with equal soundness. Cook’s hundred soon followed as he collected a leg-side boundary off Jack Leach.

The stand was broken by Dean Elgar’s second delivery of his return to Somerset. The South African Test batsman, whose slow left-arm spin was introduced as an afterthought by Abell, offered up a tempting short ball and saw Cook pull it straight to James Hildreth at mid-wicket.

At 216 for two, Essex required only a further 39. By tea they had progressed to 222 for two, with Westley unbeaten on 62. Somerset took the second new ball at 233 for two, with only 22 needed. It only speeded the outcome as Lewis Gregory conceded four byes with the first delivery and Westley top-edged a six off Craig Overton.

Westley ended the match with a boundary off Gregory. By then he had faced 146 balls and hit 15 fours and a six.

After the close of play a clearly disappointed Tom Abell said: “I am obviously gutted by the result. It was a bit of a strange game in that it ebbed and flowed both ways and at the start of today I thought that we were in a good position but it turned out it wasn’t to be.

“I think that we probably let ourselves down with the bat but I am just massively disappointed really because we trained well and were all excited about the start of the season so to fall at the first game was pretty disappointing.”

Tom went on: “Matt has just spoken to everyone in the changing room and said that we can’t let that define our season because we know that we are better than that, and we have got to come back better next week.”

“Credit has to go where it is due and I think that Alastair Cook is world class and Tom Westley also played well, but we found it difficult to extract the same as we did in the first innings, but conditions change.

“We can look at the pitch and say it has got easier to bat on but I think that we had an opportunity to apply ourselves as well with an 81 lead but we didn’t do that. We have to look at ourselves as batters and we need to be better.

Talking about his own form Tom said: “I am trying to separate the captaincy from my batting, and it goes without saying that I am desperate to score runs. I try to lead from the front but obviously didn’t do that in this game and I am very aware of that and I will try hard to put that right at Old Trafford.”

Tom added: “We have now got a couple of days to reflect after which we will have a couple of days of hard training to make sure that we are ready for Friday at Old Trafford.”

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11/07/2022 11:00 - Southport