Essex Cook up a fine win at Somerset
PUBLISHED: 17:35 16 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:35 16 April 2017
Former England captain hits century at Taunton
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 one-sided third day that saw his side effortlessly chase down a target of 255 from an overnight score of 10-0.
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 made a mockery of the low scoring on the first two days.
Essex claimed 19 points, while Somerset had to be content with four from what was a bitterly disappointing start to their campaign by last season’s runners-up.
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 101-1 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 nine 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 216-2, Essex required only a further 39 and by tea they had progressed to 222-2, with Westley unbeaten on 62.
Somerset took the second new ball at 233-2, with only 22 needed, but 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.
The effortless manner in which the visitors reached their target suggested that much of the carnage of the opening two days was down to poor batting.
There was nothing in the day three pitch to remotely aid the Somerset bowlers, who were condemned to a slow death in the Spring sunshine.