Classy Cook back in the groove

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Alastair Cook

England opener Alastair Cook slips into Ashes mode at Wantage Road, compiling an elegant 155 to help Essex into a strong position

England opener Alastair Cook returned to his Ashes form with a sparkling century for Essex on the first day of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.

Cook struck a magnificent 155 from 235 balls, including 20 fours, and put on 258 for the second wicket with Jaik Mickelburgh, who made 112, to put Essex into a dominant position.

However, Northamptonshire’s attack stuck to their task well and a late flurry of wickets saw the visitors stumble to 345 for six, with Chaminda Vaas ending the day with 3-53.

After unsurprisingly choosing to bat first in glorious conditions, Essex lost Billy Godleman for four in the fifth over when he was trapped lbw by Vaas.

Cook, however, played some lovely shots en route to fifty and Northants were soon on the back foot.

Mickelburgh took 16 deliveries to get off the mark, but soon settled into his stride and brought up his own half-century by driving Lee Daggett through the covers for four.

Essex continued to control proceedings throughout the afternoon and Cook moved to three figures, from 144 balls, for the 32nd time in his first-class career.

The hosts were then denied a breakthrough in the final over before tea as Mickelburgh, on 99, was dropped by Andrew Hall at slip off Jack Brooks.

Mickelburgh made the most of his good fortune and completed the second century of his career in the first over of the evening.

However, his 205-ball stay at the crease, which featured 15 fours and a six, was ended soon after as Daggett removed off stump with a beautiful delivery.

Cook moved to 150 with a powerful shot through square-leg but then fell lbw to Brooks and fellow England batsman Ravi Bopara departed in similar fashion, for 31, in Vaas’ next over.

Brooks saw another catch go down off his bowling as David Sales shelled Matt Walker at second slip.

The luckless bowler responded well to the setback, however, and won another lbw decision to send Walker back to the pavilion for just five.

When nightwatchman David Masters edged Vaas to Hall, four wickets had fallen for the addition of 11 runs, but Mark Pettini and skipper James Foster survived the remaining 21 deliveries and will resume tomorrow on eight and five respectively.

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