Essex v England: Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott retire short of centuries on day three
Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were in the runs as England's match against Essex was stripped of first-class status.
Last Updated: 03/07/13 12:30pm
Cook (82) and Trott (79) both retired with centuries in sight before rain brought an early close with England on 217-3 in their second innings, a lead of 344 with one day remaining.
The fixture had been downgraded halfway through afternoon session to allow Boyd Rankin and Reece Topley to bolster Essex's injury-depleted attack.
The hosts lost David Masters, Tymal Mills and finally part-time off-spinner Tom Westley to respective Achilles, hamstring and hand injuries.
The contest was therefore in danger of being reduced to a mis-match, with Cook and Trott batting against only two fit frontline bowlers - and three substitute fielders, including two schoolboys, also in action.
Among those who might feel a little aggrieved were Essex leg-spinner Tom Craddock and England's Tim Bresnan - whose career-best bowling and first hundred in six years would no longer count in the records.
England's management and their hosts nonetheless decided a pragmatic decision was required to ensure home preparations for next week's first Test against Australia were not further undermined.
There was a reassuring sight for England in the morning when Graeme Swann was able to field and bowl, after x-rays revealed no fracture to his right arm.
England had a fleeting injury scare over their first-choice spinner, but they confirmed last night Swann had suffered no serious injury and there was physical evidence of his well-being when he bowled last man Mills to end Essex's first innings at 278 all out.
Craddock had Joe Root lbw for 26 to end an opening stand of 76 with Cook in 16.3 overs but Trott joined his skipper to add a further 119 either side of a rain delay.
Both decided to retire at tea with England's score on 195 to allow Ian Bell (12no) and Jonathan Bairstow (10no) some time in the middle, although further showers ensured it was a limited opportunity.