ALASTAIR COOK and Tom Westley both posted centuries as Hampshire endured misery in the field on a rain-shortened first day against Essex in the County Championship division one at Chelmsford.
The pair put on a record 243 runs for the second wicket against the Ageas Bowl side as the hosts finished 243-2 at stumps.
Former England captain Cook continued his rich vein of form and ended unbeaten on 114 – his fourth ton of the summer in all competitions.
Westley departed for 111 when he was bowled by Kyle Abbott with the final ball of the day.
Hampshire coach Craig White admitted he was shocked by how things went.
He said: ‘At the start of the day, we wouldn’t have thought they’d only be two wickets down at the end of play.
‘I’m a little bit shocked, really.
‘We’ve got to fight as hard as we can. A few quick wickets and you never know. The new ball is due so we might have a bit more luck.’
Play was delayed by 45 minutes due to overnight rain and just three overs were bowled in the morning session.
But Hampshire couldn’t have wished for a better start.
Fidel Edwards had Nick Browne caught at square leg by Mason Crane for a duck off just the fifth ball of play.
The former West Indies international later damaged his shoulder and could not bowl more than 10 overs.
Browne’s departure brought Westley to the crease sooner than expected and he survived a first-ball appeal for a catch behind.
The ball seamed and swung around alarmingly for the batsmen after lunch as Abbott almost cut Westley in half with a late inswinger.
Gareth Berg had Cook in some discomfort for a couple of overs, but Westley responded by hitting the South African for successive boundaries.
For a spell, runs were hard to come by on a slow outfield, and Cook had to run three for a well-timed drive through the offside that would normally have reached the rope.
Westley, though, outscored his partner midway through, and found the boundary with greater regularity.
The right-hander brought up his half-century with a four off Berg.
Cook then raised his bat with his fifth four after driving Edwards square on the offside.
The earlier storm clouds gave way to a brighter evening, metaphorically and meteorologically, as Hampshire used seven bowlers to try and find a way of breaking the partnership.
Westley was first to reach three figures when he whipped Sean Ervine through the covers before Cook stroked Crane through the offside for a 222-ball century that included 12 fours.
Abbott claimed the scalp of Westley with the final ball of play for 111 to give Hampshire a lifeline.