Essex 226-0 trail Middlesex 246 by 20 runs
Alastair Cook completed his third Specsavers County Championship century of the season as Essex’s openers completely dominated the Middesex attack in the day-night match at Chelmsford.
Fellow left-hander Nick Browne was within three runs of his first century of the season at the first interval on the third day. He had helped Cook put on an unbroken 226 for Essex’s highest first-wicket stand of the season.
After the first session Essex, who started on 106 for nought after the second-day wash-out, were just 20 runs behind Middlesex’s first-innings 246, with Cook 125 and Browne 97.
Cook survived a scare before the start when James Foster parried the ball into his face during catching practice. The England opener fell to his knees, and stayed there for several minutes while medical staff checked his jaw. However, he was back in the middle 35 minutes later to resume his innings as if nothing had happened.
Indeed, Cook twice rocked on to his back foot and punched Toby Roland-Jones for boundaries in successive overs. He was even more contemptuous of Tim Murtagh, who was thumped almost contemptuously to the boundary.
At the other end, Browne received a let-off on 46 when he slashed at Roland-Jones outside off-stump and Steven Finn dropped a relatively routine chance at third slip. He took advantage and reached his fourth Championship fifty in five innings with his sixth four, pushed through the covers.
Cook glided Ryan Higgins to fine leg for the single that took him to three-figures. His century, which included 17 fours, took him 134 balls. That was 16 balls less than Browne required for his half-century, and told the story of their partnership.
When they passed 209, they broke the record Essex first-wicket stand against Middlesex, beating the previous best set by Frederick Fane and Johnny Douglas at Leyton in 1906.