Somerset v Essex, Specsavers Championship Div One, Taunton, 1st day April 14, 2017

Cook beds in after Somerset's sleepy start

Essex 60 for 2 trail Somerset 209 (Trego 48, Zaidi 3-18) by 149 runs
Scorecard

File photo - Alastair Cook batted Essex to the close in Taunton © AFP

Alastair Cook's first innings since he surrendered the England Test captaincy possessed enough quality to indicate that his resignation has not dulled his appetite for scoring runs. Steadfast and well-tuned, he reached the day's end in Taunton on 39 not out and looked in the mood for the challenges ahead. Mark down that November date in Brisbane now.

Three successive boundaries off Jamie Overton was almost high-spirited by Cook's exacting standards. So many England captains retire immediately upon standing down, but for those who choose to return to the county circuit, it can be a satisfying place. You are a long time retired and, at 32, especially with England runs still to be had, there is no need to turn to farming for a while yet.

With no Test cricket until July, Essex will benefit from Cook's extended presence as they seek to adjust to Division One life, although Varun Chopra, signed in the winter from Warwickshire and omitted for this match as Cook recovered from a hip ailment, might face a frustrating period as he vies with Nick Browne for a place at the top of the order.

Down Somerset way, they would expect Cook's concentration to remain implanted. Concession of the England captaincy is a small frustration to bear as the years progress. After all, more than ten years have elapsed since Marcus Trescothick's England innings ended in distressing circumstances and he has served them nobly ever since.

They began queuing before 10am outside the main gate at Taunton, predominantly men and women of a certain age, joined by a sprinkling of youngsters of thoughtful mien, the sort who are unafraid, or fated, to grow up before their time.

There were no sharp-suited marketing types among them and probably never have been. No ambitious businessmen endlessly checking their mobile phones. Just a rag-a-tangle of county fans looking forward to the start of a new season, clutching sticks, or haversacks or rolled up newspapers, eager to lay claim to their favourite seats as another Somerset season began.

The lifetime ambitions of these battle-hardened observers of England's professional circuit have largely softened. Live well, stay as healthy as might be expected, find contentment in their own pleasures. And, for many of them, families apart, there are few things more important than another summer of county cricket, a game of gentle memories and convivial conversations, a game they have long imagined will sustain them until they are gone. Now, not just here in Taunton, but in Derby, Leicester, Northampton and others besides, they are no longer quite so sure.

The passion for county cricket is as strong in Somerset as anywhere in the country, Yorkshire included, but the county is not expected - certainly not in the first season at any rate - to host any matches in the new regional T20 tournament envisaged by the ECB to begin in 2020. Cardiff and Bristol will lay claim to the regional side in the west. They will wave it aside impatiently and turn up, as they always do, whether for four-day or one, for a county circuit they yearn to survive.

There were no anti-ECB banners as there were at Chester-le-Street - a response to Durham's enforced relegation - but the old certainties that the game will somehow survive are no longer quite as strong, however much administrators assure them The County Championship Is Safe With Us.

Somerset, in their first day of Championship cricket, were unable to provide much solace. They were denied the title only on the final day of last season, but they succumbed tamely against a promoted Essex side for 209, when 300 might have been par on a pitch already turning modestly. Last season, one would have observed that it had been prepared with Jack Leach's slow left-arm in mind, but nobody quite knows how Leach will go after his action was deemed illegal during the winter in a routine test at Loughborough.

Most of Somerset's runs flowed against New Zealand left-armer Neil Wagner, whose inclination is to attack whenever the opportunity and who went at five-an-over. If it swings, he pitches it up, if it doesn't he often resorts to aggressive short stuff. Peter Trego, in particular, got his share of bouncers, but it was Lewis Gregory who was caught in the trap at leg gully.

Trescothick was the recipient of an award for 25 years' service. He must have lost count of the accolades and statistical achievements. All Somerset supporters will want to say they were there on the day he passes Harold Gimblett's county record of centuries. He needs one more, but after looking in sound order he fell on 26, wafting to slip and well caught low to his right by Cook. Ravi Bopara fiddled two out, also removing the new captain, Tom Abell, Cook again on hand with a juggling catch.

Dean Elgar was pugnacious and looked a natural replacement for Chris Rogers, who is now Somerset's batting coach; James Hildreth, a batsman so full of optimism that he foretells an early spring, briefly flowered before he top-edged Jamie Porter on the pull; Steven Davies, on Somerset debut, played inside one that turned a touch; and Trego played responsibly, but 209 was no sort of total at all.

Ashar Zaidi, a rarely used slow left-armer in the Championship, returned 3 for 18 on a pitch that can be expected to turn progressively, and only missed out on a career-best because of a drop at slip late in the Somerset innings. The culprit was Cook. Not quite able, therefore, to claim perfection.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • lodd on April 16, 2017, 9:23 GMT

    Take it cricfan is new to cricket ...

  • cricfan64708882 on April 15, 2017, 17:02 GMT

    cook should retire now ,it will be good for the entire team if they want to win the Ashes.

  • cricfan45268006 on April 15, 2017, 12:18 GMT

    Taunton definately the place for music lovers yesterday with Wagner bowling to Elgar

  • JohnScott on April 15, 2017, 11:56 GMT

    18 wickets have now fallen in 4 sessions. A case for the pitch inspectors?

  • espnfan44294332 on April 15, 2017, 10:27 GMT

    Looked like Harmer who dropped the late catch to me; and Cook couldn't get to the rebound?

  • jmcilhinney on April 15, 2017, 5:27 GMT

    Definitely good for Cook and England that Essex have been promoted this year.

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