SIR Alastair Cook scored his fifth first-class hundred at the Kia Oval, and the 69th of his career, as Essex totalled 299 for 3 on the first day of their County Championship match against Surrey.

A good-sized crowd rose to applaud the former England captain when he reached three figures just before tea.

After dominating a 120-run second wicket partnership with Tom Westley, Cook went on to add a further 145 in 41 overs with Dan Lawrence as Essex built a strong foundation in search of a third successive Division Two victory.

Making his 17th first-class appearance on a ground which holds many great individual memories – he also scored his only T20 hundred at the Oval, for Essex in 2009 – the 36-year-old Cook looked in fine fettle from the moment he drove Reece Topley either side of cover for his first two boundaries in the third over of the day.

There were 18 fours in all in Cook’s masterclass, many of them through the offside and including one memorable back foot extra cover force off Rikki Clarke, and it was his second championship century at the Oval. Three of his 33 Test tons also came at this ground.

Lawrence reached a fluent 78 before he fell leg-before to Dan Moriarty three overs before stumps, playing around his front pad, and the only Essex batsman to miss out on an easy-paced pitch after Westley had won the toss and opted to bat was opener Nick Browne who had reached just 13 when he edged a defensive push at Jordan Clark to keeper Jonny Tattersall.

Yorkshire’s Tattersall was an emergency loan signing by Surrey after Jamie Smith failed a fitness test and the 26-year-old took a second catch when Westley, on 47, was beaten by a leg-cutter from Clarke as he played forward.

Cook, by then, was well past his half-century and his only scares came on 26, when a leading edge off Moriarty’s left-arm spin looped up towards point and just evaded Clarke’s despairing dive as the veteran all-rounder tried to get to it from slip, and in the nineties when he edged Clark clean between slip and gully for four.

Lawrence, meanwhile, signalled his aggressive intentions by skipping down the pitch and swatting Moriarty high over long on for six but, in fact, Cook kept pace with his younger partner during their excellent stand either side of tea.

In all, there were six fours and that six from Lawrence, including two gorgeously-timed straight drives off Topley and Clark, while the seemingly insatiable Cook faced 280 balls in a six-hour effort – with power, of course, to add.

Jamie Porter came in as nightwatchman, on Lawrence’s departure, and was 0 not out at the close.