Captain Cook hits unbeaten ton
Alastair Cook's century led the Essex fightback against Derbyshire as a clutch of incumbent and prospective England batsmen found their form.
Cook (139no) made a nonsense of the hosts' first-innings struggles, adding a stumps total of 297 for five on day two of their Division Two fixture to 94 all out at the initial attempt.
Essex's fortunes improved immediately this morning as David Masters finished with six for 46, and Graham Napier three for 52, in a Derbyshire collapse from 141 for five to 154 all out.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was left stranded on 75 not out, and then Cook took over.
The opener put on 103 for the second wicket with Tom Westley (56), and 112 for the third with Ravi Bopara.
He hit 13 fours in his 173-ball century - the 46th of his first-class career and first as a dad, following the birth of his daughter this month.
But Tim Groenewald, hat-trick hero for the visitors in the first innings, made late inroads with the second new ball to finish with three for 37.
Cook's England colleague Ian Bell was also in the hundred club again, coincidentally a 46th for him too, as he led from the front in a similar rearguard - for Warwickshire at home to Sussex, up in Division One.
Bell, who hit 11 fours and a six in his 166-ball hundred, is stand-in captain in the absence of the injured Jim Troughton.
He shared a century stand with Rikki Clarke (79) and went on to make an undefeated 144 as the Bears put their first-innings nightmare behind them to finish day two 245 runs in front on 387 for seven - already 300 more than they managed at their first attempt.
Also in the top flight, there were hundreds for two England aspirants.
Uncapped Sydney-born opener Sam Robson is many people's idea of Cook's partner for the first Test against Sri Lanka in June, and he confirmed yet again his liking for the venue of that match - with an unbeaten 144 for Middlesex against Nottinghamshire at Lord's.
Robson hit 14 fours in his 170-ball century, and put on exactly 200 for the third wicket with Eoin Morgan (86) as the Irishman also hit form as he seeks a return to the Test fold in England's middle order this summer.
Middlesex closed on 296 for four, in reply to 326 all out after Steven Finn (five for 91) had completed a second five-wicket haul in as many championship matches as he restates his own Test case following his miserable winter on the sidelines of England's Ashes whitewash defeat in Australia.
If Yorkshire's Adil Rashid is to make his Test debut this summer, it will be as a spinner who can bat.
He demonstrated his abilities in the latter department by making his third successive hundred in fixtures against Somerset.
Rashid turned his overnight 84 into 108, with 18 fours from 190 balls, in the visitors' 450 all out at Taunton.
Somerset then closed on 166 for three, thanks to 75 from opener Chris Jones.
At Wantage Road, champions Durham bagged full batting points against Northamptonshire thanks to Phil Mustard's 91, Gareth Breese's 62 and then a maiden half-century from tail-ender Jamie Harrison (65).
In reply to Durham's 452, captain Stephen Peters (51) and Kyle Coetzer (53) helped the hosts close on 200 for three.
A see-saw Division Two match between Gloucestershire and Hampshire at Bristol saw championship debutant Will Tavare add only four runs to his overnight 135 before he was last out as the hosts collapsed from 292 for five to 304 all out.
They lost their last nine wickets for 124 runs since late on day one, and Hampshire's James Vince - another on the fringes of possible England selection - then made 144 out of 417 for nine, hitting 23 fours and a six off 184 balls and sharing a seventh-wicket stand of 155 with wicketkeeper Adam Wheater (81no).
There were late wickets again, though, Matt Taylor and Will Gidman finishing with four each.
Worcestershire and Kent are engaged in a tight tussle at New Road.
In response to the hosts' 224 all out, Kent began day two on 39 for two and went on to take a five-run lead thanks to half-centuries from Daniel Bell-Drummond (61) and Ben Harmison (55), despite Gareth Andrew's four for 42 and Moeen Ali's three for 43.
There was then time too for Worcestershire to ease back in front on 41 without loss at stumps.