JAMES Anderson warmed up for this summer’s Ashes by claiming the prized scalp of former England captain Sir Alastair Cook in his first LV= Insurance County Championship appearance for 11 months.

Lancashire’s decision to bat first on a straw-coloured wicket meant Anderson remained tucked up in the pavilion until required to bat shortly before tea. He made nine not out.

However, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker required just three balls in Essex’s reply to collect his first wicket of the domestic season before having Cook playing forward to be judged lbw.

Anderson had struck straight away when Cook’s opening partner Nick Browne chased one that lifted outside off-stump to give catching practice to Luke Wells at first slip.

Anderson finished the day with two wickets for 33 from 11 overs as Essex reached the close on 98 for three.

With almost impeccable timing, it was Sam Cook, the more than promising Essex seamer with aspirations of eventually replacing Anderson when he retires from Test cricket, who took the limelight with his first five-wicket haul of the season as Lancashire were dismissed for 207 on the stroke of tea.

Lancashire’s up-and-down innings was underpinned by 20-year-old wicketkeeper George Bell, having only his fourth Championship outing, who was ninth out for a career-best 60 from 109 balls that included 10 fours and displayed maturity beyond his years.

Not that there were too many signs early on of the sort of life that Anderson was to extract in his seven-over salvo in the evening session.

Only when Essex’s overseas debutant Doug Bracewell joined the attack did a few sparks start to fly. The New Zealander had the Lancashire upper-order ducking and weaving, and Josh Bohannon had to watch one pass just under his throat.

However, on a fresh and breezy April day that had Simon Harmer standing at second slip almost incognito inside a snood that covered the lower part of his face, it was a rejuvenated Jamie Porter who made the initial breakthrough.

Porter took just 19 Championship wickets last year but needed just 10 balls to raise his 10th of this season when he had Wells strangled down legside.

Keaton Jennings seemed to find plenty of time against the Essex pace attack and walked down the wicket to pat away the majority of deliveries faced.

However, Adam Rossington clocked the move and crept closer to the stumps and duly profited as Jennings wafted at one to give Cook his first wicket. Jennings had weighed anchor for 36 minutes for the single next to his name.

However, it was the introduction of Bracewell that blasted a hole in the Lancashire batting. He was soon celebrating his first Essex wicket when Steven Croft drove at one outside off-stump and was grabbed at shoulder-height by Harmer.

The same partnership accounted for Bohannon, fencing at another wide ball with Harmer taking a smart one-handed catch.

Two quick wickets fell straight after lunch when Cook was brought back into the attack. First, Dane Vilas was pinned in front playing down the wrong line, and five balls later, Colin de Grandhomme was similarly undone and lost his off-stump.

Bell and Tom Hartley steadied the ship with a 67-run seventh-wicket stand. Hartley survived two dropped-catch chances to record a 50-ball 33 that included five fours and a six before he attempted to reverse-sweep Harmer and exited lbw.

Bell lost another partner when Tom Bailey pushed Bracewell to midwicket and Porter’s direct throw beat him to the non-striker’s end. The youngster followed two overs later, victim of the Cook-Cook alliance before Cook the bowler wrapped up the innings to finish with figures of five for 42.

The elder Cook drove Anderson crisply to the midwicket boundary three balls before he perished. Essex were three down in the next over when Tom Westley misjudged a ball from Will Williams and was another lbw victim.

Dan Lawrence (39) and Matt Critchley (23) saw Essex to stumps with an unbroken half-century partnership that included five penalty runs when De Grandhomme’s return to the wicketkeeper hit Critchley’s bat and was penalised under Law 28.2 for ‘illegal fielding of the ball’.