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Essex make commanding start to Championship clash

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Nick Browne collected his second LV= Insurance County Championship century of the season as Essex assembled 280 for three against Somerset.

Opening batter Browne mixed his usual determined self with some more glamourous shot-play to guzzle his season-best 129 not out – the 18th time he has reached three figures in first-class cricket.

His punishing innings was welded together by 105 put on with Alastair Cook (44), 56 with Dan Lawrence (35) and 115 with Paul Walter, who ended the day unbeaten on 57.

Browne and Cook cruised through the wicketless morning session, having chosen to bat, with barely the hint of a play-and-miss or false shot, as the pitch proved unresponsive.

The pair bided their time, but the usually gritty openers’ boundary striking made the slow going worth it. Browne, in particular, punished any width with gloriously timed drives and cuts – 10 of the 15 boundaries in his century came between point and straight.

During the morning, Somerset had an injury scare with Craig Overton – released by England to play in this match. The bustling quick started the day having problems landing and limped away from an over. The major worry came after while attempting to field a ball. He was forced off for the rest of the session with a shoulder injury.

He returned after lunch and offered up the half volley which Browne gleefully pounced on to drive himself to his half-century.

In the 37th over, Somerset got the obligatory ball change, and for the first time, the pitch produced a modicum of help for the bowlers.

Balls passed the bat with more regularity and after four overs, Essex had lost their first two wickets.

Peter Siddle, on his return to the Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford having spent three years at the county, picked up the wicket of Cook for the third time this season. Having got him nicked off twice at the Cooper Associates County Ground, this time the Australian had his former Test nemesis leg before.

Tom Westley followed in the next over when he prodded Overton forward to Lewis Gregory at first slip.

Lawrence showed his typical suppleness of wrist to readjust the momentum back towards the hosts by adding 56 with Browne but fell to the last ball of the afternoon. Part-time spinner Matt Renshaw rather burgled it, as Lawrence edged a very wide delivery to slip Gregory – who could barely hide his guiltiness of the wicket.

But Browne strode on, and despite getting somewhat stuck on 99, moved to a deeply popular century with another drive, this time only for three. His milestone came in 228 balls and was rewarded with a fist bump from Siddle.

Walter was spritely at times, helping the run rate up to threes for the first time in the day, and moved past 50 for the third time this season, in 85 balls. Included was a towering straight six off Jack Leach – who went wicketless to give Somerset hope Simon Harmer that may not be as profitable as in recent games.

Essex batter Nick Browne:

“It is very pleasing to bat the whole day and sets it up nicely for a big score this innings.

“I’ve felt pretty good most the year but you need that luck to play-and-miss or get dropped when you nick one. It hasn’t really happened, I have played all right but just found ways to nick them this season. The trend this year is if you can get through the new ball you can go on and get runs and I’ve done it on occasions but I want to do it more.

“It is always nice to get a century stand with Alastair Cook. It set up the game nicely. It is always hard to get out after him. We used to have a little competition but I always seemed to lose it because he is too good.

“That last session was pretty crucial. We had to pick it up a little bit and Paul played nicely. Hopefully we can go on tomorrow and kick on the runs to get a big total.”

Somerset Director of Cricket Andy Hurry:

“It has been a tough day for us but the one thing we can be proud of is that we haven’t let them get away from us. We bowled really well on a pitch that hasn’t given us a lot of assistance, it would have been great if it had a little more pace in it.

“Credit to Sir Alastair and Nick. At the start of their innings, they had to work quite hard to earn the right in the first session. But I’m pleased we didn;t go away from our plans in general and kept applying some pressure. We got some rewards in the second session and the boys kept going in the last session.

“It is still early door, so we will see how the spin unfolds. There are two quality spinners on display.”

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19/08/2022 14:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground