Northamptonshire v Essex, Northampton, 1st day April 20, 2011

Cook shines before late fightback

Stumps Essex 345 for 6 (Cook 155, Mickleburgh 112, Vaas 3-53) v Northamptonshire

England's Alastair Cook returned to his Ashes form as he made a century for Essex on the first day of their County Championship Division Two clash with Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. Cook struck a magnificent 155 off 235 balls including 20 fours on a day where Essex finally managed to post a competitive score as they closed on 345 for 6.

Jaik Mickleburgh was also a centurion as he made 112 off 205 balls and he was part of a second-wicket stand of 258 with Cook, but Chaminda Vaas took 3 for 53 as a late flurry of wickets kept Northants in business.

Essex won the toss and unsurprisingly chose to bat in glorious conditions but they lost Billy Godleman for four in the fifth over when he was trapped lbw by Vaas. Cook, however, played some lovely shots in making his half-century off 75 balls as he and Mickleburgh began their dismantling of the home bowlers.

Having taken 16 deliveries to initially get off the mark, 21-year-old Mickleburgh went on to complete a composed 50 off 109 balls with a four through cover off Lee Daggett. Cook then made the 32nd first-class ton of his career off 144 balls as Essex continued to dominate after lunch.

Mickleburgh then had a huge let-off on 99 when he edged Jack Brooks only to be dropped by Northamptonshire captain Andrew Hall at slip with the penultimate ball before tea. He made the most of his second life as he completed the second century of his career off 188 balls in the first over of the evening, which was bowled by Vaas.

Daggett then claimed a much-needed breakthrough for Northants when he took out Mickleburgh's off stump to end a superb knock that included 15 fours and one six. Cook reached 150 off 226 deliveries with a four smashed behind square leg before he finally departed when he was pinned lbw by Brooks.

England international Ravi Bopara went in the following over after plundering 31 when was caught leg before by Vaas. Matt Walker was then dropped on 0 by David Sales at second slip off Brooks but he was then trapped lbw by the same bowler after scoring just five.

David Masters then edged Vaas to Hall at first slip for a duck which meant four wickets had fallen for just 11 runs. Mark Pettini and Essex captain James Foster survived the last 21 deliveries of the day and they will resume tomorrow on eight and five respectively.