ALASTAIR Cook showed just why Essex were delighted that he committed himself to an extended three-year deal with the county during the winter after deciding to end his international career.
Playing his 100th first-class match for Essex, his bat dominated two of the first three day’s exchanges in their clash with Kent as he followed up a first innings century with another innings of high quality until he fell just 10 runs short of making back-to-back hundreds in the same game.
The former England captain was in imperious form as he recorded his 65th first-class century of his career – 22 of those for his County – on his way to 125 from 242 balls with 14 fours before he was dismissed.
It was his first Championship hundred since his 193 against Middlesex in 2017 and there was an inevitability about it from the start of his innings.
With gritty and resolute determination combined with the unflappable temperament that has been his trademark over the years, Cook never looked in any trouble as he scored freely off his legs in typical style either whipping the ball in the arc of midwicket or deftly turning the ball of his hips.
Another Essex favourite, all-rounder Ravi Bopara – batted alongside Cook for two-and three-quarter hours whilst 130 runs were added for the fourth wicket.
“It was a vintage innings from him,” Bopara enthused. “Having him there holding up one end made a big difference to our total, once he was dismissed wickets tumbled. It was a brilliant innings from ‘Cookie’ on what was a tough pitch.
“I always enjoy batting with him, he is so confident in his own game. Obviously his value to the team is immense as we saw.”
The mode of Cook’s eventual dismissal was a rarity; it was the first time he had been run out playing a first-class game for Essex and only the third time in his red-ball career.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Bopara pleaded. “He decided to go for a second run and I said, ‘Yes Sir’. You can’t turn down a request from a Knight!”
Essex were eventually guided home in the end thanks to a brilliant 8-98 from spinner Simon Harmer with only Daniel Bell-Drummond (81) showing any resistance.
Harmer’s display gave him match figures of 11-170 and now has 29 Championship wickets for the season.
Bell-Drummond smashed 10 fours in his patient 176-ball knock before becoming South African Harmer’s final wicket of the innings as Essex powered to a 113-run victory in a match which finished just before 5pm.
PAUL HISCOCK / Photo: Getty Images