Australia Cooked at Chelmsford

A blistering double hundred from former England Under 19 captain Alistair Cook compounded Australian worries ahead of the final Test.

Winning the toss on a friendly wicket, Essex skipper Ronnie Irani had no hesitation in taking first use and was well rewarded as openers Cook and Will Jefferson raced to a 140-run opening stand before Michael Kasprowicz, one of five front-line bowlers named in the Australian lineup, broke through the giant left-hander’s defence.

Instead of relief, Jefferson’s wicket brought more pain to the Australian bowling as Ravinder Bopara joined his fellow ex-Under 19 International in a partnership worth 270, only Jason Gillespie was able to keep his economy rate below four per over. Brett Lee saw his 13 overs disappear for 69 runs, whilst leg-spinner Stuart MacGill – before today seen by many as an outside bet for selection at the Oval – bowled 24 overs for 128 runs.

It was Kasprowicz again who finally separated the two, as the left-handed opener holed out to Jason Gillespie at mid-off, having struck 33 boundary fours and one maximum in his mammoth 214 – coming at barely slower than a run a ball. The departure of Cook brought brief relief for the tourists, as Shaun Tait struck twice quickly thereafter, bowling Bopara for 135 and then seeing Mark Pettini caught by Matthew Hayden for just eight.

The torment was not yet over for the visitors, as James Foster and James Middlebrook added an unbroken 61 for the fifth wicket, easing Essex past the scarcely believable 500 mark before stumps at the halfway point of the tour match. The county side are permitted another 15 overs of batting tomorrow, before the tourists get their turn – with the Essex attack boasting little threat beyond Andre Nel, relief is on the horizon. Yet after 105 overs chasing leather, the bigger picture for the Australians is far less rosy.

Essex 502-4
Alistair Cook 214, Ravinder Bopara 135
Shaun Tait 2-72, Michael Kasprowicz 2-85

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