Cook century puts Essex on top at Worcestershire
- Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo
Sir Alastair Cook demonstrated his hunger for the game remains undiminished in his 37th year as he completed his first hundred of 2021 to put Essex in the ascendancy on day on of the LV=County Championship match with Worcestershire at New Road.
A cold day, a slow pitch and no spectators could not be a starker contrast to when Cook signed off from his international career at a packed Kia Oval with a 33rd Test hundred for England against India three years ago.
But Cook’s drive and determination is still at a remarkably high level for someone who has achieved so much in nearly two decades for club and country and he went onto make 115 as Essex closed on 266-2 from 96 overs.
He reached three figures off 231 balls with a single to fine leg off Dillon Pennington and his third hundred in four Championship games at New Road contained 15 boundaries.
Worcestershire were left to rue failing to take any of four sharp chances on another day of hard slog in which they maintained their discipline and accuracy for long periods but for little reward.
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When Nick Browne was dismissed 25 minutes after lunch, it was the first wicket to fall at New Road for more than five sessions stretching back to before tea on the third day of the previous match with Nottinghamshire.
Essex captain Tom Westley opted to bat on a wicket with a short boundary on the Cathedral side of the ground.
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Jake Libby skippered Worcestershire for the first time with club captain Joe Leach rested as part of the club’s rotation policy for their bowling attack.
Browne had a couple of early escapes. Daryl Mitchell at second slip was unable to hold onto a difficult low chance off Pennington with Browne on eight.
Browne had added only five more runs when he nicked a Morris delivery and Mitchell could not hold onto a sharp chance high to his left.
West Indies paceman Alzarri Joseph asked questions of the batsmen but it was Ed Barnard who almost brought about Cook’s downfall on 29.
He was deceived by a delivery which lobbed up inches short of Pennington’s dive forward at mid-on in a rare misjudgement by the opener.
Joseph made the breakthrough 25 minutes into the afternoon session. Browne was beaten by a pacey full length delivery and was trapped lbw for 26.
Westley looked in good touch and on drove Morris for successive boundaries.
Cook’s fine knock ended when he attempted to cut a widish delivery from Joseph and dragged the ball onto his stumps. His stand with Westley was worth 139 in 48 overs.
Westley on 45 pushed forward to Barnard and survived a low and sharp chance behind the wicket before completing a 144 ball half century and he remained unbeaten on 75.
Cook said: “I’ve struggled for rhythm this year to be honest. I don’t know really why. I was hitting the ball lovely indoors and then as soon as I went outside everything didn’t seem right.
“I don’t know why. What I’ve been averaging hasn’t been great. It was just a case of trusting yourself. You know you can and will score runs but it is never a nice feeling when you are not contributing to the team.
“I had a bit of luck early on which is what you need. I can’t remember the last time I batted so long! You almost forget you can do it.
“We’ve been a little bit short of runs. No-one looks out of nick but we haven’t got big runs. It was nice today. It doesn’t mean everything is perfect but it’s nice as a batting group to only lose two wickets in a day.”