Tom Westley © Getty Images
Tom Westley scored 144 144 on Wednesday against a high-class attack © Getty Images

Essex opener Tom Westley followed in the footsteps of England captain Alastair Cook by making an impressive century for Essex against the touring Australians at Chelmsford on Thursday. A decade ago, opening batsman Cook — before he’d made his Test debut — announced himself to the cricket world with a century for Essex against Australia at Chelmsford. BLOG: Essex vs Australians, 2arm-up match Day 2

The 26-year-old Westley is no unknown — he has played over 100 first-class matches – but his 144 on Wednesday against a high-class attack boasting several bowlers with plenty of international experience had to be one of the peaks of his career. READ: Shane Watson faces tough challenge to maintain position

Westley’s innings, which saw him blunt the new-ball attack of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, was the cornerstone of Essex’s 299 for three on the second day of four made in response to Australia’s first innings 562 in what was the Ashes-holders’ final warm-up match before next week’s first Test against England in Cardiff. READ: Australia will need Mitchells to fire to retain urn in England after 14 years

After stumps Westley, only promoted to open the innings after Nick Browne suffered a finger injury while fielding, said Cook had been one of the first to congratulate him. READ: Ashes 2015 without sledging will lack flavour

“I checked my phone and I have had a message from Cooky already, it was just ‘well done and congrats, I will give you a call over the next couple of days’,” said Westley. “My father and uncle were here today, so it is a fantastic feeling to score some runs. I thought I was lucky at some times, it is a tough wicket to bowl on with not much in it, but Australia have all bases covered.”

Australia paceman Peter Siddle, a late replacement in this side for Ryan Harris, whose latest bout of knee trouble means he is unlikely to feature in the First Test, said: “It was obviously disappointing not to get some more wickets during the day, but it comes back to our consistency with the ball, we were a bit all over the shop.

“But at times the boys showed how they were getting through, at the end of the day it was a good blow out for us, we got some overs under our belt.” Just as Daniel Bell-Drummond had done in scoring a hundred for Kent at Canterbury the week before, Westley showed it was possible to get on top of Australia’s quicks with judicious attacking batting.

Essex also made life tough for off-spinner Nathan Lyon, a key figure in Australia’s attack in that he usually bowls well enough both to take wickets and allow captain Michael Clarke to rest and rotate his out-and-out quicks. But Lyon’s opening five-over spell Thursday went for an expensive and wicketless 54 runs.

Westley and Essex captain Ravi Bopara put on 213 for the second wicket as the pitch remained a good batting surface and, at stumps, former England all-rounder Bopara was 86 not out. A fine innings spanning 209 balls, with 24 fours and one six, came to an end when Westley was bowled by Starc, who also dismissed nightwatchman Jamie Porter with what became the last ball of the day.

On a day of rain interruptions, Australia all-rounder Mitchell Marsh bolstered his Test prospects by extending his overnight 136 not out to 169 before he was bowled middle stump by Matthew Salisbury. But while neither he nor Shane Watson, his rival for a Test place, took a wicket on Thursday it was the more experienced if injury prone all-rounder who looked the greater threat with the ball as he sent down his first competitive overs of the tour.

Brief Scores:

Australians 562 (David Warner 94, Mitchell Marsh 169; Jamie Porter 3 for 97 Thomas Moore 2 for 74) lead Essex 299 for 3 (Tom Westley 144, Ravi Bopara 86*) by 263 runs.