Brilliant Alastair Cook smashes a century as he helps guide Essex to victory at Somerset – Tom Westley makes 86

Alastair Cook, guided Essex to victory today

Alastair Cook, guided Essex to victory today - Credit: Gregg Brown

Alastair Cook hit an untroubled century as Essex clinched the first victory of their return to the Specsavers County Championship top flight with an eight-wicket success against Somerset at Taunton.

The former England captain looked in prime form, easing his way to 110 on a one-sided third day that saw his side effortlessly chase down a target of 255 from an overnight ten for no wicket.

Tom Westley contributed an unbeaten 86, sharing a second-wicket stand of 134 with Cook, whose chanceless hundred occupied 202 balls.

Nick Browne made 38 before falling to a poor shot off Jamie Overton with the total on 82.

It was Somerset’s only breakthrough of the morning session on a placid pitch that made a mockery of the low scoring on the first two days.

Essex claimed 19 points, while Somerset had to be content with four from what was a bitterly disappointing start to their campaign by last season’s runners-up.

Young skipper Tom Abell continually switched his bowling attack, making liberal use of pace and spin. But a combination of clear blue skies and a lifeless wicket brought only frustration.

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Cook and Browne batted with confidence from the outset and it was a major surprise when Browne slashed hard at a short, wide ball from Overton, edging a catch to wicketkeeper Steve Davies.

By lunch Cook and Westley had taken the total to 101 for one from 41 overs and already the outcome looked beyond doubt.

So it proved as Cook, who had reached his half-century from 92 balls, continued to display immaculate shot selection in moving relentlessly towards three figures.

First Westley got to 50, from 87 balls, batting with equal soundness.

Cook’s hundred soon followed as he collected a leg-side boundary off Jack Leach.

The stand was broken by Dean Elgar’s second delivery of his return to Somerset.

At 216 for two, Essex required only a further 39. By tea they had progressed to 222 for two, with Westley unbeaten on 62.

Somerset took the second new ball at 233 for two, with only 22 needed and Essex saw the game home to collect the 19 points.

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