Cook score puts Kent under the cosh
Cook score puts Kent under the cosh

Sir Alastair Cook fell 10 runs short of recording back-to-back centuries for the first time in a match in his first-class career as Essex compiled a healthy lead in their Specsavers County Championship fixture with Kent.

England Test great Cook had scored a gritty 125 in the first innings and appeared on course to reach the milestone in the second innings having compiled 90 runs before he departed.

It was the fourth time in his career that Cook had scored a century and been dismissed in the 90s, having never collected two hundreds in the same match.

Despite falling short of three figures, Cook helped Essex scored 181 for six, to boast a lead of 312, before rain truncated the day’s play at tea.

Kent had been bowled out for 182 to bring down the curtain on day two, with a first innings deficit of 131 runs.

Cook and Nick Browne aimed to pile on the runs and bat Kent out of the game and set about in a watchful manner.

Browne was given a life on eight when Matt Milnes put down a relatively simple chance at point off Harry Podmore and it proved costly as the openers put on 55 for the first wicket.

Darren Stevens broke the partnership in the 23rd over when Browne was leg before.

At the other end, Cook dug in with characteristic diligence, with his trademark cut often being brought out of the locker.

Although there was an uncharacteristic shot produced in the morning session when he swivelled on one leg and cracked Milnes from outside off-stump through midwicket for the second of six boundaries.

It was a rare moment of aggression from Cook, who cruised along at his own pace on his 100th first-class match for Essex. He reached his 109th red ball half-century in 98 balls.

Tom Westley had looked confident for 20, but failed to go on to reach a milestone score as he was lbw to Milnes.

Dan Lawrence beautifully stroked a straight drive down the ground but his wicket sparked an Essex collapse.

Fast bowler Harry Podmore had Lawrence caught by Zak Crawley at second slip, after the ball had jumped up at the batsman, before the bowler and fielder combination united again the very next delivery; Ravi Bopara stunningly snaffled at third slip.

The hat-trick ball was delayed for nearly 25 minutes mid-afternoon session when the umpires took the players off as persistent rain became heavy. Podmore’s next delivery upon the resumption pitched innocuously well wide of Cook’s off-stump. When Podmore did put the ball within Cook’s range, the ball twice sped past point to the boundary.

Only 39 runs were added before Ryan ten Doeschate was leg before for the sixth time in 12 innings this season.

Cook had only been dismissed in the 90s 11 times during his first-class career but made it 12 when he edged Wiaan Mulder to Sean Dickson at first slip, following a 160-ball 90.

A second race interruption, during which tea was taken, ended the day’s play, with 37 overs lost from play.

Essex bowling coach Andre Nel:

“I think it was a pity about the rain as we were set up into a nice position.

“We’ve had a little chat upstairs and I think we have a really good plan for the morning and then the bowlers can come out and produce the goods again.

“The batters have put us in a good position but they will come back fighting so we need to bowl like how we did in the first innings.

“We need to hit the stumps and take every chance that comes our way – we can’t afford to spur any.

“Alastair has been brilliant. You can see the value of getting a first innings lead and he has played a really good knock.

“He has taken his time and faced a lot of balls because it isn’t easy to score on this pitch. He was really patient and when the bad ball came he put it away.

“That shows his class and the other batters chipped in to get us to a nice position.”

Kent bowler Harry Podmore:

“There is no beating around the bust, we were behind the game in the morning but I think the boys battled hard with the ball to get us into this position.

“With the weather the way it is, who knows what will happen tomorrow. There will be some hungry batters.

“The last two games we have played we have been in a similar situation. One we managed to come out with a game.

“We can take confidence from that game. We did it against Surrey at Beckenham although it is slightly different conditions here.

“They have some experienced players so we knew they wouldn’t fold.

“We need to take the right decisions against their bowlers. Essex have a really good attack and it will be a test for us.”