By Martin Smith

Essex (315-8) beat Gloucestershire (286-8) by 29 runs

Royal London Cup

Alastair Cook served up his tenth career List A century to guide Essex to their third win in three Royal London Cup matches this season.

Cook paced his innings with some devastating hooks and pulls, as well as well-judged nudges, accelerating from the halfway point to reach 127 as Essex posted a formidable 315 for eight from their 50 overs.

The former England captain’s first fifty took 65 balls, his second 20 balls less, while at the same time his boundary tally went up from three for the first to six for the second.

When he was finally out, he had faced 134 balls and hit 12 fours.

Cook shared partnerships of 82 with Nick Browne (42) for the first wicket, 99 with Varun Chopra (41) for the third and 57 in six overs with Ravi Bopara (37) for the fourth.

Bopara marked his 32nd birthday with a 23-ball cameo during which he passed 9,000 career List A runs.

As Essex chased late runs to pass 300, left-arm seamer Chris Liddle came back to claim three wickets in his last 20 deliveries to finish with four for 54.

Gloucestershire’s target started at nearly six and a half an over and had hit ten with ten overs to go.

But Phil Mustard (90) and Ian Cockbain (79) traded big hits in a third-wicket stand of 95 in 15 overs before the wicketkeeper departed after slamming seven fours and two sixes.

Jack Taylor also joined the party with a six in his 25-ball 34, but in the end a late collapsed left Gloucestershire 29 runs short.

Essex were put in and Browne took the opportunity to bat himself back into form in his 40-ball innings.

The left-hander survived a sharp caught-and-bowled chance to Norwell before he was the first to go as he clipped Benny Howell off his legs to Klinger at midwicket.

Cook settled and accumulated steadily.

But the ball after he reached his half-century with another single into the covers, he lost his second partner when Tom Westley chased one outside off-stump from Liddle and was caught behind for five.

Cook was dropped on 67 when he pulled Norwell to the midwicket boundary where Jack Taylor not only floored the catch but helped it over the ropes.

Cook marked the let-off with a crashing four straight past the same bowler and then lofted Tom Smith over long-off before cracking the spinner off his back-foot through the covers.

Having moved Essex from 101 to 200 with Cook, Chopra took an ill-advised run to Chris Dent at mid-on on 41 and was three yards from home when the direct throw broke the wicket.

Cook and Bopara kicked on and had put on a quickfire 57 when the younger Taylor, Matt, claimed the catch low down at deep midwicket to send back the all-rounder.

Cook followed three runs and five balls later when he drove Liddle uppishly to Kieran Noema-Barnett at extra cover.

The same Gloucestershire partnership accounted for Ashar Zaidi before Ryan ten Doeschate went lbw to Howell.

Simon Harmer brought up the 300 with an extravagant reverse-sweep for four before Adam Wheater was caught behind from the final ball of the innings.

The Gloucestershire openers had put on 74 in 17 overs when Harmer got one to move away from Klinger and Zaidi tumbled backwards in taking the catch at short third man.

The batsmen had become bogged down and Dent underlined the frustration when he tried to hit Harmer over the top and found sub fielder Callum Taylor at long-off.

With the run-rate already approaching eight an over by halfway, Mustard decided to chivvy things along and pulled Harmer for six to bring up his fifty from 63 balls.

Cockbain then deposited ten Doeschate for a huge six over cow corner and Mustard hit another out of the ground at midwicket to ruin Harmer’s figures.

He ended with two for 69.

The return of Matt Quinn broke the third-wicket stand when Mustard sent a leading edge high to deep extra cover where Cook claimed at the second attempt.

Noema-Barnett didn’t last long before holing out to Taylor on the midwicket boundary, but Cockbain kept up the tempo and reached his fifty from 51 balls.

Wagner’s return at the Hayes Close End for the 42nd over of the innings nearly brought Gloucestershire back into the game.

Jack Taylor and Cockbain slammed straight sixes in an over that cost 21 runs and ended with Cockbain caught off a free hit.

But after helping put on 70 in nine overs, Taylor tried to hit Quinn over wide mid-off and was pouched by Harmer.

Cockbain finally departed, caught at deep cover by Cook off Bopara, who then claimed the wicket of Howell, caught at short third man by Zaidi, and finished with three for 34.

Finally Norwell went down the wicket to Zaidi and was stumped.