Worcestershire CCC supporters were treated to Alastair Cook’s first century of 2018 in a perfectly timed reminder of his importance to England ahead of the forthcoming Test series with India.
His country’s record run-scorer in Test cricket reached three figures for England Lions on the opening day of the four-day match with India A at Blackfinch New Road.
The Essex left hander went to his hundred – in his first innings for two and a half weeks – with a cut at the expense of Navdeep Saini which yielded his 15th four.
It was a chanceless century – the 62nd of his career and the first since the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne.
Cook’s seemingly insatiable appetite to score runs meant he continued on unflustered to the close when he reached 154 not out from 238 balls with 22 fours in what is his first Lions appearance for 12 years.
Nick Gubbins (73) and Dawid Malan (59 not out) also gained some valuable time in the middle as the Lions closed on 310-2 from 88 overs on what was a slow pitch.
The Lions fielded six players with Test experience including all-rounder Chris Woakes who is using the match as part of his rehab from quad and knee injuries.
Lions captain Rory Burns elected to bat on the wicket used yesterday for Worcestershire’s Vitality Blast clash with Yorkshire – but the Surrey opener lasted only 11 deliveries.
Burns (5) drove firmly at Navdeep Saini – the pick of the Indian pace bowlers – and Mayank Agarwal held onto a sharp chance at second slip.
Gubbins came to the wicket looking to press his Test claims in front of National Selector Ed Smith having already scored 128 against India A in a Tri-Series match last month.
He was initially watchful and it was 22 deliveries before he collected his first boundary via a square drive off Mohammad Siraj and then cut spinner Jayant Yadav to the ropes.
Yadav had taken nine wickets and scored a century when playing three of his four Tests against England during the winter of 2016.
He provided a searching examination on a pitch offering him some encouragement.
Cook accumulated in typically effective fashion and he and Gubbins both reached their half centuries in the same over from Saini – off 86 and 108 balls respectively.
Gubbins went down the wicket to Yadav and hit him for a straight six.
But on 73 he perished playing a similar stroke to the one which brought about Burns’ downfall, driving hard at Ankit Rajpoot and being snapped up at first slip by Murali Vijay.
The partnership with Cook was worth 155 in 45 overs.
Malan was released from the ODI squad by England to play in the four-day match and took full advantage of the opportunity.
He grew in confidence after straight driving Shahbaz Nadeem to the boundary and the century stand with Cook came up in 29 overs.
The Middlesex batsman brought up his fifty shortly before the close from 118 balls with six boundaries.