ALASTAIR COOK delivered a masterclass to struggling Surrey at the Kia Oval.

The former England captain – back at the scene of his memorable farewell Test three years ago – hit 165 out of Essex’s 439 all out in the LV County Championship Division Two clash.

Cook, knighted for his services to the game after stepping down from international cricket but still widely regarded as England’s best opener, batted more than seven hours as he led the visitors to a position of supremacy, finally departing to a catch from on-loan wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall off left-arm spinner Dan Moriarty. It was one of five dismissals for Tattersall, drafted in for the injured Jamie Smith, only the second keeper to achieve that feat in the first innings of his debut in the county’s history.

Backed up by Dan Lawrence’s 78, the value of Cook’s fifth first-class century at the ground – including three in Tests – was amplified when Surrey struggled badly in reply, saved from complete capitulation only by acting captain Hashim Amla’s half-century.

It means Surrey are likely to enter their final match of the season – hosting Glamorgan at the Kia Oval from Tuesday – in danger of the wooden spoon in Division Two.

Having failed to qualify for the top group in this year’s experimental Championship, where the 18 teams were split into three conferences, they have opted to experiment in the final stages of a campaign which stuttered early on and never picked up momentum.

It summed up Surrey’s campaign, interrupted by international calls and injuries, that Smith was forced out of the Essex match with a shoulder injury, which meant Tattersall had to be called in on loan from Yorkshire. He has already appeared for Gloucestershire at The Oval this season, a loan spell there seeing him make 86 not out in a losing cause.