Cook shows England class as lacklustre champions labour

<preform>Warks 345-5 DEC &amp; 225-4 DEC MCC 275-2 DEC & 296-3 <br>MCC win by seven wkts</preform>
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The Independent Online

Mark Butcher, Robert Key and Ian Bell had better watch out. Should Alastair Cook continue to bat with the same skill and discipline as he has in the last two days, England's selectors will have a fourth batsman vying for the No 3 spot in the Test side.

Mark Butcher, Robert Key and Ian Bell had better watch out. Should Alastair Cook continue to bat with the same skill and discipline as he has in the last two days, England's selectors will have a fourth batsman vying for the No 3 spot in the Test side.

The 20-year-old Essex opener fell three agonising runs short of his second hundred of the match here yesterday, but this failed to prevent the MCC coasting to a seven-wicket victory over Warwickshire. Cook was not the only Essex batsman to shine on a glorious spring day in St John's Wood. Andy Flower, the former Zimbabwe captain, tucked into the county champions' lacklustre bowling with a majestic, unbeaten 110 and Mark Pettini scored 41 quickfire runs.

Nick Knight, the Warwickshire captain, was apprehensive about opening this game up on Sunday, and after watching his bowlers get flogged it was easy to see why. If only Rover, who supplied the champions with 45 cars as part of a sponsorship deal, were as easy to drive as Knight's bowlers.

This was Warwickshire's first first-class defeat for 18 months and the manner of the loss will stop Knight being so bold when his side begin their title defence at Edgbaston tomorrow.

The left-handed Cook's driving was superb, as it had been during his first innings 120, and the prospect of scoring 296 in 62 overs did not bother him. It helps having a 63-Test veteran such as Flower at the other end, and he showed him exactly how to keep the scoreboard ticking over without taking undue risks.

It was a surprise to see Flower being given the chance to play such a profound role in a fixture that has been reintroduced so that the England selectors can watch the progress of youngsters and it would have been better to watch Owais Shah, an England hopeful, test himself against the best side in the country.

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