Essex 234 for 3 (Cook 107, Walter 89*) against yorkshire
And so it was that the former England captain duly racked up an unlucky century in Chelmsford, in front of a bustling spring crowd and with more than the usual handful of photographers and TV cameras in attendance.
But then, with a dad seemingly at his mercy, Cook fatally lost focus with just four overs of the day remaining, underscoring a back foot drive as Steve Patterson rounded the wicket and drove off with a rustle of frustration but at a familiar standing ovation. It had been a similar scenario for his opening century against Kent, in fact – 100 from 266 balls then, 107 from 268 now. In his pomp he wouldn’t have allowed a night watchman to make the most of the conditions on day two, that’s for sure.
Root, on his first public outing since stepping down as England captain, will have to wait – although you feel he’s seen enough already to know his own No. 37 First Class Hundred is fine on the cards this weekend – assuming his teammates are watching. By the way, surely there has never been a non-international game with two men with a combined Test count as high as 22,361 battling opposing teams.
For the time being, Root has been limited to three neat overspins in the afternoon session, while in an apparent display of the “altruistic” credentials his successor Ben Stokes has demanded in his Test squad, he n has only made fleeting appearances on the periphery of the slipline – the suggestion being that he does not wish to disrupt Yorkshire’s more regular roster of tight receivers.
Mind you, Yorkshire’s position in this game could have been better had he done so. After Nick Browne departed for third point of the match, Harry Brook, in Root’s usual position on the first slide, dropped a Tom Westley keeper who could have left Essex faltering at 10 for 2. He then repeated the error as Cook, in a lonely aberration, climbed into a loose one-ball drive after his century with Jordan Thompson twice the unlucky bowler. George Hill, Browne’s executor, also passed up a tough faint chance through his third-slip catch – the second of two lives in as many occasions for Walter who, to complete a catalog of guesswork, was dropped by Patterson in his follow-up on 12.
But all those moments were just footnotes to another totemic grind of Cook, whose only moment of alarm before his hundredth birthday came arguably 64, when Walter’s long levers connected softly with a biff through the line of Dom Bess who damn decapitated his team-mate as he ducked for cover on the non-attacking side.
Cook’s opening gambit set the tone for the day. Essex’s innings already had 35 balls before – to ironic cheers – he shoved a single off his legs to score the team’s first inning, and left them on a 1-for-1 subsided after six overs: an advantage digital it was not. His next shot was a perfect drive through the covers of Thompson, and seeing as that shot tended to be the last to come out of his locker during his Test career, he told you everything you needed to know. on another demon-free surface that arguably meets the new ECB requirements but potentially at the cost of a short-term contest between bat and ball.
Yorkshire huffed and puffed in vain. The green hue on the pitch had persuaded Patterson to play first after winning the toss, but without the edge of Haris Rauf, who got his way after a first set five against Kent – not to mention Matt Fisher and his stress expressed by euphemism. reaction in his back – there was little traction to be had from any of the remaining rapids.
Instead, it was left to Bess to carry the first-day burden with 23 neatly delivered overs, including the second of two wickets they managed in the lifetime of their first new ball. The timing of this breakthrough was fortuitous, as Tom Westley gave Harry Duke an advantage in the first over Bess, although the ball itself was little more than a wide long jump. Nonetheless, as Bess demonstrated with his five-wicket run in Sri Lanka last year, before his form disintegrated on the Indian leg of this trip, he has a happy knack for such breakthroughs.
In the end, all eyes had turned to Walter and his quietly determined quest to atone for his disappointment against Northamptonshire last week. On that occasion, his excellent match guard had finished seven points from a first-class hundred; Today he left the field 11 points short of the mark, but most importantly he did so after leaning on his bat-handling on the non-attacking side while watching Sam Cook do his nightly homework. Having come so close so recently, he is determined to make amends at the first opportunity.
Andrew Miller is ESPNcricinfo’s UK editor. @miller_cricket