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Cook tunes up for another demanding summer

Alastair Cook gets back in the groove Getty Images

Hampshire 351 for 7 dec (Adams 87, Siddle 3-62) drew with Essex 300 for 6 ( Cook 84, Bopara 84*)
Scorecard

Alastair Cook began his summer with a composed half-century to allay worries over his form but missed out on threef igures as Essex drew with Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

Opening batsman Cook appeared in complete comfort against Hampshire's bowling attack, which boasts international quality in Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards and Brad Wheal, during his score of 84.

Context had to be provided, however, by the dead nature of a match that was ruined by rain and bad light and never went beyond the first innings.

Cook, who averages 77 in the Specsavers County Championship since the beginning of the 2016 season, has had his place in the England Test side questioned having only passed fifty once in seven matches in Australia and New Zealand.

But the 33-year-old batted himself into form with a typically stylish innings - reaching his half-century in 80-balls - before Chris Wood dismissed him caught behind.

The conditions had marginally brightened for the final day, although both sets of players, along with umpire Paul Baldwin, wore woolly hats.

Hampshire had made a successful dart for bonus points in the morning session, having seen bad light and rain scupper any hopes of a result in the match.

Beanie hat wearing Peter Siddle found Rilee Rossouw's edge off the fourth ball of the morning, which flew to a wide second slip, two balls after snapping the South African's bat.

Lewis McManus tickled Sam Cook behind to James Foster, before Abbott turned chief architect for the hosts' quick-fire run scoring - the South African scoring 43 runs in 35 deliveries.

He added 68 runs with Liam Dawson in just 49 balls, with Abbott smashing six off Simon Harmer straight down the ground.

Abbott, who had earlier been dropped on 36, was eventually caught and bowled by Cook as Hampshire declared at 12.30pm.

James Vince declared after Wood had crunched Hampshire over the 350 mark, and a fourth batting point to give Essex their first innings of the match.

Cook managed to take the shine off the new ball during a tricky five over spell before lunch with Nick Browne.

The opening stand was worth 54 when Browne, on 26, was caught attempting to defend outside his off stump by Jimmy Adams at second slip off Brad Wheal.

That sparked a mini-collapse as Essex lost three wickets in 11 balls.

Tom Westley, who is attempting to re-capture his spot in the England batting line-up, was next to fall when he was caught wafted his bat between leaving and playing to a rising ball from Wheal to guide to Hashim Amla at first slip.

Kyle Abbott had Dan Lawrence lbw in the following over which hinted at a lack of match practice from the batsman.

Ravi Bopara joined Cook and the former England teammates added 87 for the fourth wicket, before the latter was dismissed.

Ryan ten Doeschate scored 24 before he was adjudged leg before to Edwards but Bopara continued to keep the runs flowing with a 93-ball half century.

James Foster took Essex past 250, and a second batting point, during a 76 run stand with Bopara, before he was bowled by Dawson for 46.

Bopara ended up with 84 not out as Essex reached 300 to scored an additional point before the two captains' shock hands.