Cook in fine fettle for new era
Alastair Cook smashed his second County Championship century of the season as Essex batted out a draw with Surrey at The Oval.
The Essex and England captain fired 127 in a second-innings total of 258 for four, with Ravi Bopara adding 42 to his first-innings 49 in the Division Two clash.
Cook backed up his mammoth 181 against Derbyshire at Chelmsford with another assured knock, amid expectations Paul Farbrace would shortly be confirmed as Peter Moores' England assistant.
The former Kent, England Women and England Under-19s boss resigned his Sri Lanka coaching post on Tuesday, paving the way for his England appointment.
New England boss Moores will aim to usher in a fresh start in summer Test battles against Sri Lanka and India.
The outgoing Lancashire coach will need chief lieutenant Cook on top form as he fights to rebuild England's brittle confidence after their 5-0 Ashes winter whitewash.
And the 29-year-old left-hander produced another impressive early-season innings, to register his 47th first-class century.
Surrey started day four by resuming their first innings on 217 for six, but failed to spend the kind of time in the middle coach Graham Ford had demanded.
Tymal Mills removed Chris Tremlett, clean bowled for six, and Jade Dernbach, caught by David Masters without scoring.
Jason Roy's 46 from 61 balls proved the final resistance, but even his battling innings came to a premature close, snared leg before by Masters.
All-rounder Zafar Ansari's continued absence with concussion meant Surrey were done and dusted at 237 for nine.
The hosts' tail wagged for less than five final-day overs, handing the middle to England skipper Cook.
Essex took a 69-run lead into their second innings then, with Surrey no doubt hugely frustrated with their batting exploits.
Cook suffered no such travails however, quickly into his stride as Surrey failed to match their first-innings bowling accuracy.
Jaik Mickleburgh edged Matt Dunn to wicketkeeper Steven Davies, Surrey's young seamer adding another victim to his first-innings five-wicket return.
Essex eased to lunch at 82 for one with Cook 40 not out though, and continue in much the same vein after the interval.
Cook notched his 50 with his ninth four, reaching 53 from 90 balls.
Tom Westley played his way to a creditable 42 and a 78-run partnership with Cook, before he was skittled by Dernbach with Essex 128 for two.
Commanding complete control, Cook cruised to his century in 160 balls notching 16 fours.
Essex reached tea at 204 for two, with Bopara 28 not out and Cook on 107.
Cook weighed up a declaration to pepper a final-session barrage at Surrey, but instead chose to return to the crease.
Bopara failed to turn a good start into a half-century for the second time in the match, this time eight short of the mark.
The 28-year-old was bowled by Dominic Sibley for 42, to add to his first-innings 49, as Essex hit 229 for three.
Cook eventually succumbed to a Rory Burns delivery that turned more than he had expected, departing for 127 from 202 balls including 19 fours.
Greg Smith (16 not out) and Ben Foakes (four not out) were then left to guide Essex to the match's close.