Essex crush Middlesex in the Royal London Cup thanks to Cook and Westley

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex, Royal London One-Day Cup Cr

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex, Royal London One-Day Cup Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 25th July 2021 - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

Sir Alastair Cook and Tom Westley crashed big half-centuries as Essex Eagles crushed Middlesex by nine wickets in the Royal London Cup.

England legend Cook clocked his 48th List A fifty to end 92 not out while Eagles captain Westley returned an unbeaten 87 – putting on 159 together.

Sir Alastair Cook of Essex in batting action during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex, Royal London One-Day

Sir Alastair Cook of Essex in batting action during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex, Royal London One-Day Cup Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 25th July 2021 - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

Eagles were only chasing 212, after Shane Snater’s three for 45 and two-fors for Simon Harmer and Ryan ten Doeschate, and completed a comprehensive victory with 11 overs to spare to maintain Essex’s 100 per cent record in the competition.

Westley won the toss and restricted Middlesex to a below par 212, with runs not flowing particularly freely on a green-tinged wicket under thick grey clouds.

Sam Robson was the exception to the rule has he stroked 18 in nine balls before he was strangled down the leg-side by Shane Snater.

Joe Cracknell was leg before to Snater and Australian Peter Handscomb was excellently snaffled at first slip by  Cook – as the visitors slumped to 31 for three.

Middlesex then produced their two, much needed, partnerships of note as Max Holden and Robbie White added 49 before Holden top-edged a sweep to the short boundary and was replaced by Jack Davies – who put on 67 with White.

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Neither White nor Davies scored at any great speed but ticked along, the former falling for 47 lbw to Paul Walter, while List A debutant Davies reached his half-century in 67 balls.

Middlesex lost their last five wickets for 39 runs as Luke Hollman was lbw to Tom Westley, James Harris chipped straight back to Simon Harmer, Thilan Walallawita edged Ryan ten Doeschate behind and then the Dutchman produced cat-like reactions to pouch a return from Davies.

Simin Harmer of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of James Harris during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex,

Simin Harmer of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of James Harris during Essex Eagles vs Middlesex, Royal London One-Day Cup Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 25th July 2021 - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

Snater ended up at the top of the wicket pile, returning three for 45, as Ethan Bamber pulled into the leg side to end the innings.

The Eagles’ chase looked in little doubt from the moment Will Buttleman cut Walallawita to the boundary with the fourth ball.

Cook looked in sumptuous form with pure timing trumping outright power.

An on-drive through mid-wicket, a straight drive and a push through the off side typified his style and got him motoring.

Buttleman flicked straight to Sam Robson at short midwicket, having put on 54, with Cook in a rare batting misjudgement from the hosts.

Cook reached his 20th format fifty for Essex in 60 balls with a flick off his legs, with Westley unfurling some glorious stroke play as the duo reached a century partnership in 118 deliveries.

Westley moved to his half-century in 59 balls before threatening to overtake his experienced partner, and eventually preventing him from reaching three figures.

Essex captain and batter Tom Westley, who scored 87 not out: “You can’t get a better start to a competition than this, which is pleasing.

“That is one of our best team, from batting to bowling to fielding, performances that we have seen for a while. It is exciting times.

“I think our bowling display was outstanding. There is a bit of doom and gloom around Ports [he went off the field halfway through an over] so we’ll see what that is. But after Wheats’ unbelievable catch [first wicket] we were on it.

“To bowl a team out in 50 over cricket is an unbelievable performance. Obviously, we won the game one wicket down but the bowling took all the pressure off us.

“It is always nice to have a knight of the realm in the dressing room, and nice to have him in the runs as well. That was a typical innings for him in white-ball cricket. He was timing the ball beautifully. You know when he is hitting the ball straight and hard he is in a good space.”

Middlesex batter Jack Davies, who was one of five List A debutants for his side and scored 70: “It was a tough day. It is going to be easy when they bowl that well up top. Robbie and I tried to get us to a decent total but it wasn’t our day.

“We were maybe even more than 50 or 60 runs light. We talk as a group a lot about keep going and sometimes you get bowled out for 140 but then some days they have two players who get on and you never know what they could have chased down.

“It is nice to get runs myself but ultimately it doesn’t mean a great deal if we don’t win the game.”

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