Cook steady after Porter gives Essex control
Essex 108 for 0 (Cook 50*, Browne 47*) trail Derbyshire 148 (Thakor 44, Porter 4-28) by 40 runs
Alastair Cook marked his first Championship appearance of the season with an unbeaten half-century as Essex took command against Derbyshire at Chelmsford. The England captain will resume on 50 as Essex reached 108 without loss in reply to a 148 total before bad light ended play with 13 overs remaining.
Cook has so far hit six fours in an innings spanning 113 balls and two and a half hours as he and Nick Browne, 47 not out, underlined that the pitch was not nearly as bad as Derbyshire's efforts would suggest.
After the visitors had been put in, they lost half their side for 25. There was cloud cover that no doubt prompted James Foster to insert his rivals, but there was no excessive swing to contend with. The truth is that the visitors contributed to their own downfall with some poor strokes - or no strokes at all.
Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen were out shouldering arms against Jamie Porter and Jesse Ryder respectively, while Wes Durston perished chasing a wide and high delivery outside his off stump. In the end, Derbyshire's modest total owed much to Shiv Thakor and Wayne White, the pair putting on 60 in 9 overs for the seventh wicket while both catching the eye with some pleasant drives.
Thakor eventually fell to Graham Napier for 44 when he was caught in the slip cordon by Cook, a contribution containing seven boundaries from 53 balls. White was left stranded on 38, which came from 44 balls and included five fours, when Derbyshire's innings came to an end in the 35th over.
Twenty-two year-old Porter underlined his promise with career-best figures of 4 for 28, a performance that took the fast bowler's tally to 24 for the season.
Napier and Ryder each finished with two wickets before Cook and Browne emphasised that it was possible to make steady progress and survive without too much difficulty. Both were prepared to treat each ball on merit, Browne emphasising that as he concentrated on a cautious approach while gathering nine fours in an effort that has so far spanned 117 balls.
It all served to leave Essex in pole position and contemplating victory after having lost three of their last four games which saw them go into the start of this game propping up the bottom of the table.