MCC v Warwickshire, Lord's, 3rd day April 10, 2005

Cook makes his mark with stylish century

Andrew McGlashan, at Lord's

Warwickshire 345 for 5 dec and 70 for 3 lead MCC 275 for 2 dec (Cook 120, Shah 78*, Prior 70) by 140 runs

Alastair Cook: impressive ton at Lord's marks him out as a player to watch © Getty Images
Alastair Cook, the Essex opening batsman, confirmed his reputation as one of the brightest young talents on the county circuit, with a well-crafted century for MCC, on the third day of their game against Warwickshire at Lord's. He made good use of a flat pitch, non-threatening bowling attack and a short Grandstand boundary to compile an impressive innings in front of David Graveney, the England chairman of selectors.

Cook, 20, who recently returned from the England A tour of Sri Lanka, where he had reasonable success in very tough conditions, was rarely troubled by the Warwickshire attack. Only Heath Streak was anything approaching a test and it was a surprise when Cook nibbled at a delivery from Nick Warren, feathering a catch behind.

Understandably, he was delighted with his start to the season: "It's what you dream about, to score a hundred at Lord's and hopefully it's the first of many. Lord's is a great ground and it was a great pitch. All the legends have played here and it's just nice to score a hundred here." However, he is not getting carried away and is constantly trying to improve his game. "I obviously want to score more runs than I did last year and just try to keep building and working on my technique and my mental approach."

Cook played within himself during the morning session and went to lunch on 37, but became increasingly positive as the afternoon wore on - although the bowling became ever gentler as Nick Knight tried eight different players. He peppered the short Grandstand boundary, taking a particular liking to Dougie Brown, dispatching three fours in an over, before a punched drive into the covers took him to three figures from 218 balls. By the time he was dismissed he had stroked 15 boundaries, most coming from the centre of a broad-looking bat

He has developed rapidly under the watchful eye of Graham Gooch at Essex, and has progressed through the England Under-19 set-up and now the Academy and says it has been great to improve his craft under the guidance of Gooch. "I'm still learning, we've only known each other for a year and a half, but what a man to learn off. He was an opening batsman, scored millions of runs and what more could I want as an opening batsman. I just keeping asking questions and hopefully he gives a bit of advice here and there and I keep moving forward."

With his Academy and MCC selection, Cook has seemingly moved ahead of Will Jefferson, his Essex opening partner, in the pecking order, despite only making 568 runs at 29 in 2004. He stands tall at the crease - all 6'3" of him - and gets a good stride in when he drives the ball, which, along with the cut, are his strongest shots. The real sign of his talent, however, is the time he has to play his shots. The Warwickshire attack may not have included anyone threatening, but he was rarely troubled.

Cook was not the only batsmen to shine, and initially was overshadowed by an aggressive knock from Matt Prior, who continues to do everything right to push his claims for an England spot. Prior stroked 70 from just 65 balls before edging an attempted late cut to the solitary slip off Ian Bell's medium pace (109 for 1).

Owais Shah, taking the opportunity of an early season net, added 166 with Cook, before John Stephenson declared 70 runs behind to try and breathe some life into the match. Warwickshire closed on 70 for 3, and unless there is a clatter of wickets or a generous declaration by Nick Knight this match is drifting to a draw. But the few spectators who were present today will know that Alastair Cook is a name to look out for in the future.