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Alastair Cook stroked his way to 172 as he produced an innings of the highest quality to put Essex on the cusp of a first innings lead in their Bob Willis Trophy clash with Somerset at Lord’s.
At the close, Essex had reached 271 for 6 and 30 runs adrift of their opponents after the former England captain had played one of his finest performances on behalf of his county.
He was in imperious form and the longer he stayed at the crease, the sweeter his bat sounded as he cut and drove with exemplary timing and effect.
His half-century arrived from 100 balls with 8 boundaries and he took a further 64 balls to reach three figures having collected another 10 fours. Relentlessly, he kept his score ticking along facing a total of 251 deliveries as he moved onto 150 that embraced 24 boundaries.
Many of those were superb cover drives during an innings in which he recorded his 67th first-class century and 24th for his county.
His magnificent effort worth 172 runs came to an end shortly before the close when he flirted with a ball from Lewis Gregory outside off stump and was caught by Craig Overton at second slip ending his stay at the crease lasting 5 hours and 19 minutes and 289 balls.
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Early in the day, Nick Browne fell to Gregory for 8 but that paved the way for Tom Westley to figure in a substantial partnership with Cook worth 170 runs as the Essex skipper prospered to post his highest score of the season in the competition.
Playing with sound and selective technique, he posted a merited half-century from 128 balls and completed with the seventh boundary of his innings when he whipped a ball from Tom Lammonby off his legs and through to the boundary.
But he was to depart two deliveries after tea when, having scored 51, he was caught at short mid-wicket off Lammonby to leave Essex 197 for 2.
Somerset though were encouraged with two more wickets in as many deliveries when Dan Lawrence went for 6 and Paul Walter first ball that reduced Essex to 208 for 4.
Ryan ten Doeschate teamed up with Cook but it was the effects of the second new ball that allowed Somerset to regain a foothold in the game. The new cherry was taken with the score 257 for 4 and ten Doeschate and Cook had completed a 50 stand spanning 115 balls but shortly after, both then both departed in a matter of 9 balls.
Cook went first on 264 and then two runs later, ten Doeschate went back when facing Overton and was leg before for 21.
Nightwatchman Jamie Porter though survived 23 balls for 5 and he and Adam Wheater – still to get off the mark – will resume in the morning as Essex look to gain a first innings lead that could yet be crucial in settling the outcome of this decider.
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