Somerset v Essex, Specsavers Championship Div One, Taunton, 3rd day April 16, 2017

Cook begins post-captaincy life with classy hundred

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Essex 129 (Cook 52, van der Merwe 3-26) and 257 for 2 (Cook 110, Westley 86*) beat Somerset 209 (Trego 48, Ashar Zaidi 3-17) and 174 (Wagner 6-48) by eight wickets
Scorecard

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County Championship Round-up: Cook's class shines through

Those who harboured fears that Alastair Cook would descend into a sea of despond upon conceding the England Test captaincy can rest easy. He is not that sort of man. An unflustered century, following quickly upon his half-century in the first innings, provided an immediate statement in his first match since that his appetite for runs remains as strong as ever and contributed sizeably to Essex's authoritative eight-wicket win against Somerset with more than a day to spare.

On a surface where 18 wickets fell on the second day, only two were taken on the third as Essex, 10 without loss overnight, ticked off their target of 255 with an air of total authority. The break-time larks in the classroom had been stilled the moment the head teacher appeared on the scene: Cook exuded quality from the outset.

By the time he fell, on 110, Essex's victory was as good as assured. Somerset's recourse to desperate measures saw their young captain Tom Abell turn to the occasional left-arm spin of Dean Elgar. His second ball was a long hop and Cook yanked it obligingly to James Hildreth at midwicket. When your first game in charge turns so markedly against you, you probably welcome any luck going.

That apart, as Cook shared stands of 82 with Nick Browne and 134 with Tom Westley, his awkward moments were rare. A missed cut at Jack Leach saw the ball have a nodding acquaintance, no more than that, with his off stump, and, on 95, he played and missed twice in succession at a third left-arm spinner, Roelof van der Merwe, but generally he was at his most orderly, nudging singles square of the wicket, working the leg-side boundary and even unveiling a consummate drive down the ground against Craig Overton - proof that his game was in a good place.

Somerset's task was made harder by a pitch that behaved more genially than on the second day, the loss of pace affecting pace bowlers and spinners alike. "I was quite surprised by the change in the wicket," said Matthew Maynard, Somerset's director of cricket. "It was like taking air out of the ball."

Leach has embedded his reshaped action well enough, but he found little turn or guile; he will hope for that as the season develops. At least he laid down a marker. Dom Bess, the offspinner who impressed alongside him late last summer as Somerset pushed for the title, would arguably have been a more adventurous choice than van der Merwe.

It says much about Cook's equilibrium that he has adjusted to his role back in the ranks so smoothly. He spoke honestly about the transition earlier this month, saying: "It has good days and bad days. It's such a big thing to give away. It's been time to move on as a person and a player."

But a man who does not overly care for the fripperies and the attention that went along with the role of England Test captain can adjust more easily than some as a new county season begins. South Africa lie in wait in July and there is another Ashes series to consider. In the meantime, he will approach each county innings as diligently as ever.

He averaged 91.85 in seven Championship matches last summer, with three centuries, when his England responsibilities also detained him. Essex, back in Division One for the first time since 2010, would accept that as the foundations for their survival.

Not that Essex are embarrassed by his presence, far from it. Their top seven can acquit itself as well as any side at this level. Browne played soundly alongside him until he cut at a short, wide one from Jamie Overton and was done by the bounce. Westley's dapper unbeaten 86 suggested that he can also prosper. Then there is the youthful promise of Dan Lawrence, not forgetting Ravi Bopara, a wonderful law unto himself, who absent-mindedly left his kit at the hotel. He didn't need it; perhaps he knew something we didn't.

Westley, not without England hopes himself, will keep making highly-impressive runs under the Cook shadow. While Cook chose to leave the ground quietly, Westley, not for the first time, satisfied media needs with typical loquaciousness and intelligence. "There are probably not enough words to describe how impressive Cooky is as a person," he said. "He is a phenomenal cricketer. He is relentless as well. He is hungry to score many more runs."

One Cook shot stood out. Jamie Overton, supposedly a potential England fast bowler, tried to rough him up with a bouncer. He caressed it to deep square off his nose end and had so much time that he could have read a copy of Farmers Weekly before he did so. If he has time on his hands these days, that's the sort of time that he will relish most of all.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jose on April 18, 2017, 11:32 GMT

    Alastair Cook; what a batsman!

    Keep scoring. Keep inspiring many an youngster.

    With best wishes.

    From someone who admires good cricketers; doesn't matter who they are, where they are from, or whom they play for.

    My salutes.

  • j423ri3502301 on April 17, 2017, 18:32 GMT

    Cook is a great player. Sure he has many hundreds left in him.

  •   Cricinfouser on April 17, 2017, 7:35 GMT

    Wonderful innings from Cook, as with Whoster below, as a Somerset fan deeply disappointing but from an England perspective heartening; but we only have ourselves to blame for those two batting displays, should have put the game beyond reach in the 3rd innings. Still, with Cook in that sort of form, maybe 400 wouldn't have been enough.

  • ian on April 17, 2017, 7:31 GMT

    That is the man! Cook surrenders the England captaincy after much heart-searching. He didn't enjoy his last weeks in post. No matter... Cook has gone back to Essex, mucked in, and done his newly promoted county proud. To use a complimentary expression of yesteryear: he is a brick. Neither is he too big for his boots. Those who give back.. How old-fashioned! How bloody marvellous!

  • s on April 17, 2017, 7:08 GMT

    "Their top seven can acquit itself as well as any side at this level", while supporting this statement, I can't understand why the author didn't mention anything about captain Ryan Ten Doeschate who was instrumental in essex winning Div 2 last year. Tendo was 2nd highest run-scorer for essex last year and was in top 10 if Div 2, he infact scored at a much better avg and SR than their leading run-scorer and england hopeful Westley who played one match more than him. Along with his runs his handy medium pace provided some crucial breakthroughs. I think he would have been touted as an england prospect if not for his age (though he openly declined that he would play for england in 2010 when he had more of a chance). Sorry for putting up such a comment on an article related to cooky (who seems to have rediscovered something after the recent poor returns) but old man tendo deserves some respect after being with them for more than 10 yrs

  • prajwal on April 17, 2017, 5:53 GMT

    Well played cook. Keep it up

  • John on April 17, 2017, 2:37 GMT

    Thanks for an entertaining and informative report as always, David. There were a few England hopefuls playing in this game; maybe watching Cook will give them some idea of what is required at international level.

  •   Raph Walker on April 16, 2017, 23:09 GMT

    I like Cook long my he break records.

  • Michael on April 16, 2017, 22:49 GMT

    Great game of cricket topped by a very good innings by Cook. Good support from Westley and Browne. If Essex can get better first innings totals, they could prosper in the first division.

  • paul on April 16, 2017, 22:01 GMT

    Cook is a real old school pro. The guy loves batting, 15,000 Test runs and 75 first class hundreds are within his compass,.

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