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Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 18:33 UK

Jaik Mickleburgh's maiden century puts Essex on top

CLOSE OF PLAY, DAY ONE: Essex 263-4 v Durham
(Essex 2pts, Durham 1pt)
Match scorecard

Jaik Mickleburgh
Durham wicketkeeper Phil Mustard (right) watches Essex's Jaik Mickleburgh pick up runs during his unbeaten 103

Essex youngster Jaik Mickleburgh stole the show with a maiden first-class century as the visitors dominated champions Durham at the Riverside.

Mickleburgh batted most of the day for an unbeaten 103 from 233 balls as Essex reached 263-4 by the close.

The Norfolk-born 20-year-old shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 161 with James Foster, who is still there on 66.

Earlier, Test opener Alastair Cook made 44 after being been cleared to play by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Cook, who captained England in Andrew Strauss's absence in Bangladesh, did not figure in the county's last-gasp win over Hampshire.

But he was granted permission by England coach Andy Flower to play at the Riverside due to a shortage of available Essex batsmen, after Matt Walker was ruled out with a calf injury.

After winning the toss, Durham captain Will Smith unsurprisingly asked the visitors to bat in gloomy conditions that could scarcely have been further removed from their pink-ball trial in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

Although shorn of their quickest bowler Steve Harmison due to a back injury, Durham's steadier seamers acquitted themselves well in reducing Essex to 102-4 in ideal bowling conditions, claiming the prize scalp of Cook in the process.

But the champions lost their way alarmingly from mid-afternoon, as Mickleburgh and Foster paved the way to a competitive first-innings total.

Mickleburgh had a narrow early run-out escape in the morning session after being sent back to the non-striker's end by Cook.

But he visually grew in confidence in Foster's company in the afternoon session, moving to a battling fifty from 131 balls just prior to tea.

He required attention from the Essex physio in the 85th over, but then picked himself up to see off the second new ball and gradually work his way to his deserved hundred, which spanned 222 balls.

BBC Radio Newcastle's Martin Emmerson:
"According to the Durham bowler Callum Thorp, captain Will Smith never discussed his decision to field first at The Riverside, but it seemed like it was a good one as Essex lost quick wickets on a cold and overcast morning.

"An Essex fightback in the afternoon put the block on Durham and the bowlers know there's still a lot of hard work to do in this match yet.

"There won't be many days as cold and challenging as this one throughout the rest of the season but hats off to the ice cream man, who turned up in mid-afternoon. He must get the prize for the most optimistic person in the North East right now."

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