Essex bowler Cook admits being injured has been tough
PUBLISHED: 14:00 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:44 16 August 2019
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Essex will have gone thirty-three days sitting on top of the Specsavers County Championship without a game by the time they rock up in Canterbury on Sunday; for the fit-again Sam Cook the wait to get a red ball in his hands has been interminably longer.
It was the middle of June, two months ago, that seamer Cook pulled up in agony four balls into his second over during Hampshire's second innings at Chelmsford and headed straight to the treatment room with what turned out to be a tear to the muscle just underneath his ribs.
In his absence Essex rattled up four successive Championship wins, their 84-point haul toppling erstwhile leaders Somerset from their perch, before enduring a soggy and miserable Vitality T20 Blast campaign that is briefly interrupted after tonight's home game against Glamorgan (7pm) by the four-day fixture against Kent.
"The injury came at a pretty inconvenient time of the season," says Cook with considerable understatement.
"It's been pretty tough. At the time I knew it probably wasn't great, but I didn't know how long it was going to take. Anything that exerted my side, or involved moving my side, was pretty painful. For someone who suffers with hay fever, sneezing wasn't particularly fun for the first few weeks.
"The gym work I've been doing is as much about prevention to try and get it so it doesn't happen again. Bowling isn't a natural movement for the body, so injuries come with the territory. But you've got to ride these injuries and make sure you're ready to come back as soon as required."
It has been a difficult period in the 22-year-old Cook's nascent career.
"I'm a terrible watcher," he says. "From a personal point of view, it's pretty gutting not being able to be out there contributing. As well as the boys did, I just wanted to be part of it. It was tough watching from the sidelines, but I was there every day supporting the boys. It's quite an Essex thing: if anyone gets injured, everyone gathers around and still makes you feel part of it. It's brilliant."
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During his rehabilitation Cook played half-a-dozen white- and red-ball games for the second team in readiness for his return to first-team action.
That imminent return is timely with the seam attack severely depleted by the Ashes call-up for Australian Peter Siddle and the shoulder injury suffered by Matt Quinn.
"As bowlers we know we are going to pick up injuries but, yes, it's good that I've got back fit now. We've got a good squad, good depth, and that's been our strength.
"Of course, Sids is going to be a big loss and we know we're going to have to step up now and fill his boots.
"We had a similar thing happen in our Championship season  when we lost Mo [Amir] earlier than we thought. But some of us came in and we did pretty well. So we back ourselves to do it again."
Essex lead Somerset by four points as the Championship season enters its last, four-game phase. "We're in the box seat and we've just got to concentrate on our own games," says Cook. "There's as much pressure on them as there is on us. Yes, we could slip up, but they could slip up as well. We're just concentrating on what we're doing and keep playing the brand of cricket that's been so successful for us over the last couple of years.
"I'd be lying if I said we didn't look at what's going elsewhere. When we come off the field at lunch or tea or at the end, of course we'll check on the other scores. But while we're out there it's 100 per cent focus on what we're doing.
"We've been in this position before and I think that's going to stand us in good stead.
"We're confident that we're capable of finishing it off and we can bring the Championship home."