Cook savours practice after tourists stumble

Essex 263 & 175-3 West Indies 146
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The Independent Online

The only pained expressions at Chelmsford yesterday were those on the faces of West Indian batsmen. Shot out for a song in fewer than 45 overs by a young and eager Essex attack, the visitors then had to watch Alastair Cook prepare himself for next week's first Test.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Cook had looked in discomfort with a finger which has refused to mend after being broken during a pre-season net session three weeks ago. Second time around, though, the England opener not only moved smoothly beyond his first innings effort of 46 but also appeared to be past the teeth-gritting stage.

For West Indies, there was precious little gain but plenty of pain. True, Shiv Chanderpaul made an unbeaten 66 but not one of his 10 colleagues could reach 15 against the fast-bowling trio of Maurice Chambers, Mervyn Westfield and Jahid Ahmed. Between them the three pacemen came into this match with a combined age of just 64 and only 17 first-class appearances in the bank but they should leave it with their reputations enhanced.

Mind you, there was enough swing and seam movement on offer to make Jimmy Anderson and his England bowling mates green with envy. Something similar in the Caribbean a couple of months ago when there was a series to be saved would not have gone amiss.

Minus IPL recruit Chris Gayle and the resting Ramnaresh Sarwan, West Indies had few answers yesterday. Chambers, born in Jamaica but now, at 21, a British citizen, hit the pitch hard with the new ball to have Dale Richards caught behind off a tentative push, before bowling Narsingh Deonarine off an inside edge and then wrecking Brendan Nash's stumps through a hint of inswing. Later, a booming yorker pinned Lionel Baker lbw to secure a career-best four for 62.

Even Chanderpaul was briefly unsettled. But while Lendl Simmons perished to a cut and Dave Bernard was caught behind to give Ahmed his two wickets, the left-hander not only survived but also prospered well enough to pull and drive sixes before Westfield cleaned up the tail.

Looking to build on a lead of 117, Essex quickly lost Jason Gallian when Baker nipped one back into his pads. Cook, though, was soon cutting emphatically after offering a low catch behind before scoring, and he completed an 85-ball half-century.

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