DAN Lawrence made exactly 100 not out and Nick Browne returned to form with 71 as Essex shared the spoils with Lancashire on the opening day of their Division One LV= Insurance County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford.

Lawrence, who was playing his first match after nearly a month out with a hamstring injury and was yesterday omitted from the England squad for the first Test, reached his century in the penultimate over of the day but Lancashire took four wickets in the final hour or so to leave the visitors on 280 for seven at the close.

In the first session Browne and Tom Westley enabled Essex to recover after the loss of Alastair Cook for only two in the ninth over of the day.

The former England captain was caught behind by Phil Salt when Tom Bailey got a ball to straighten sufficiently to take a thin edge.

However the second-wicket pair coped with Lancashire’s four seamers in relative comfort and the visitors were 74 for one after 30 overs at luncheon.

The scoring rate increased on the resumption with Browne milking the Lancashire’s attack for a quartet of fours in the first half-hour and reaching his fifty off 107 balls.

The best of the opener’s strokes was a straight drive off Luke Wood but just when Essex seemed about to take the initiative Westley tried to slog-sweep a ball from Matt Parkinson that was far too wide outside the off stump for the shot and merely top-edged a simple catch to Salt.

Undeterred by the loss of his skipper for 30, Browne continued to bat well and the batter’s obduracy prompted Anderson to bowl a succession of bouncers.

This tactic hardly unsettled his target but the England seamer still dismissed the opener for 71 in an extraordinary fashion when a firm back-foot drive hit Dane Vilas at silly point, only for the Lancashire captain to clutch the ball, claim the catch and leave Essex on 134 for three.

Lawrence, meanwhile had already played himself in although his task was eased by Parkinson virtually gifting him eight runs by bowling a couple of short balls outside the leg stump with no protection backward of square.

By tea the England batter was unbeaten on 40 and Essex were 169 for three.

The first half of the evening session belonged to Essex as Lawrence and Walter extended their fourth-wicket partnership but the balance of the day changed markedly when Lancashire took the new ball.

In the second over of his final spell Bailey bowled Walter between bat and pad for 34 and then had Matt Critchley caught behind by Salt for a four-ball nought.

Lawrence, however, continued to bat coolly until, on 99, he played the ball to the substitute fielder, George Balderson at mid off and called Rossington for an absurd single.

The non-striker was easily run out for 21 and after Lawrence had reached three figures off 178 balls, Simon Harmer was caught behind by Salt off a vicious lifter from Wood.

Bailey finished the day with the fine figures of three for 36 from 17 overs.