|Bob Willis Trophy Final, Lord’s (third day)|
|Somerset 301: Byrom 117; C Overton 66; S Cook 5-76, Harmer 2-36|
|Essex 271-6: Cook 172, Westley 51; Grégory 4-58|
|Essex Trail Somerset by 30 trails|
Sir Alastair Cook fined Essex 172, but a bout from Somerset left the Bob Willis Trophy final delicately set with two days remaining.
Cook’s brilliant 67th Century First Class was the mainstay of Essex 271-6 in response to Somerset 301.
But his departure at the close means Essex are still trailing 30 races with four wickets in hand.
Lewis Gregory (4-58) spearheaded Somerset’s rebirth in the evening session with the second new ball.
If the match ends in a draw, the team leading the first set will be awarded the trophy, and that remains in the balance.
Essex looked set to finish ahead of the stumps as they only lost one wicket in the two pre-tea sessions with Captain Tom Westley making 51 in a 170 run partnership for the second wicket with Cook .
But he fell to the second ball of the evening session and four more wickets fell before the close, including two in two balls for Gregory and two more in successive overs with the new ball.
Essex will resume on the fourth morning with night watchman Jamie Porter alongside doorman Adam Wheater with the first goal for the 2019 County Champions to reach 302.
Cook feasts on more career benchmarks
There is no doubt that the third day of this first five-day county final belonged to former England captain Cook.
During his innings he not only recorded his second century of competition in that shortened season, but became his top scorer with 532.
In a career of record-breaking prowess, England’s top test-race scorer has also risen in the top-class racing scorer rankings.
Shortly after tea, he had climbed to 141st place on the all-time list, overtaking Steve Waugh, Ray Illingworth, Ricky Ponting and Sadiq Mohammad in the process.
Another number that may be of interest to cricket statisticians is that the number 67 first-class means he has 34 to go with his 33 tests, of which 24 were noted in an Essex shirt.
The left-hander’s sleeves were punctuated by all his scoring shots; the square cut, the leg look, the traction and a stately drive blanket.
At times he seemed to be beating at a different level than everyone else in the game, such was his ease of scoring, especially in the afternoon session.
But as Essex was overpowered by Somerset’s persistent bowling after tea, he was eventually fired five times before the stumps, cleverly caught on the second slip by Craig Overton off Gregory.
Starting after 289 balls, 26 ovens and a stay of barely six and a half hours, it was his seventh century at Lord’s.
Unfortunately, the closed-door restrictions imposed by Covid-19 meant that only a privileged few were able to witness it.