A COMPOSED century by Alastair Cook consigned Somerset to a defeat in their season opener, with Essex claiming an eight-wicket victory on day three at Taunton, writes Samuel Bruning.
Despite posting a challenging target of 255 for Essex to achieve victory, the home team's bowling attack were unable to find the early breakthrough that was desperately needed.
This lack of a wicket was despite some impressive bowling efforts early on from Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory, as they consistently found seam movement and beat the bat of Nick Browne on multiple occasions.
Alastair Cook survived one lbw shout from Overton, and thereafter the former England captain continued unscathed as Essex accelerated against the pace bowlers through Cook’s glances and Browne’s drives.
This took Essex to what looked to be a commanding position, only for Jake Leach and Roelof van der Merwe to be brought on with 15 minutes remaining of the first hour.
The two left arm orthodox bowlers provided some trouble for the Essex openers, finding some turn on the used pitch, but the few chances that did arrive just avoided the Somerset fieldsmen.
The first hour belonged to Essex, as Somerset needed an immediate wicket.
This breakthrough arrived when Browne attempted to cut a wide Jamie Overton short ball, only for it to be caught by wicketkeeper Steve Davies.
This brought Tom Westley to the crease, who went untroubled as he built his innings on a pitch which had seemingly lost all it’s bounce whilst the clouds didn’t provide any swing.
Cook and Westley built their partnership after lunch, with Westley taking advantage of any poor balls while the opener cut and swept the spinners on his way to a 57th First Class century.
This knock seemed simple on the surface but Cook’s delicate shot selection, using the pace of the ball to play lots of shots square of the wicket, showed his class and ultimately decided the outcome of the match.
Westley’s support for the England international proved to be in a meticulous balance, as he would hit a boundary where Cook could not to relieve the tension and rid the batsmen of any pressure.
The leading England Test run scorer was finally dismissed by the South African part-time spinner Dean Elgar after pulling a short ball straight to mid-wicket.
This brought an effortless looking 134-run partnership to an end, with young Dan Lawrence arriving at the crease with 39 runs still needed.
Shortly after tea the new ball became available, which led to a top edged six over the keeper and, not long afterwards, Westley played an elegant flick into the leg side which flew to the boundary, taking him to 86* and his side to a comprehensive eight-wicket victory.