NICK Browne collected his second LV= Insurance County Championship century of the season as Essex reached 281 for three at stumps on day one against Somerset.

Opening batter Browne mixed his usual gritty style with some expansive shot-making to hit a season’s best 129 not out, the 18th time he has reached three figures in first-class cricket.

His punishing innings included stands of 105 with Sir Alastair Cook (44), 56 with Dan Lawrence (35) and 115 with Paul Walter, who ended the day unbeaten on 57.

Browne and Cook cruised through the wicketless morning session, having chosen to bat, with barely the hint of a play-and-miss or false shot, the pitch proving unresponsive.

The pair bided their time, but their boundary striking made the slow going worth it.

Browne, in particular, punished any width with gloriously-timed drives and cuts – 10 of the 15 boundaries in his century came between point and straight.

During the morning, there was an injury scare for Somerset’s Craig Overton, released by England to play in this match.

The bustling quick started the day having problems landing and limped away from an over, but the bigger worry came has he attempted to field a ball. He was forced off for the rest of the session with a shoulder injury.

He returned after lunch and offered up the half-volley which Browne gleefully pounced on to drive himself to his half-century.

In the 37th over Somerset got the obligatory ball change and, for the first time, the pitch produced a modicum of help for the bowlers.

Balls passed the bat with more regularity and after four overs, Essex had lost their first two wickets.

Peter Siddle, on his return to the Cloud County Ground in Chelmsford, having spent three years at the county, picked up the wicket of Cook for the third time this season.

The Australian trapped his former Test rival lbw.

Tom Westley followed in the next over when he prodded an Overton delivery forward to Lewis Gregory at first slip.

Lawrence showed his typical suppleness of wrist to help swing the momentum back towards the hosts by adding 56 with Browne but fell to the last ball of the afternoon.

Part-time spinner Matt Renshaw helped himself to the wicket as Lawrence edged a very wide delivery to the grateful Gregory.

But Browne strode on and, despite getting somewhat stuck on 99, moved to a hugely-popular century with another drive, this time only for three.

His milestone came in 228 balls and was rewarded with a fist bump from Siddle.

Walter was spritely at times, helping the run rate up to threes for the first time in the day, and moved past 50 for the third time this season in 85 balls.

His knock included a towering straight six off Jack Leach, who went wicketless to give Somerset hope Essex spinner Simon Harmer might not be as profitable as in recent games.


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