ESSEX'S Sam Cook hopes to carry on where he left off when the new season gets underway.

The fast developing seamer claimed his first ten-wicket match haul at the end of last summer and that has kept him going through the inactivity and frustration of lockdown.

Cook claimed career-best figures of 12 for 65 – five wickets in the first innings, a magnificent seven in the second – as Kent were shot out for 40 in the match at Canterbury and it helped Essex gobble up another victory on the road to their second Championship success in three seasons.

“It’s probably not far off a year to the day since then and it’s quite scary how quickly that time has gone,” said Cook as he prepares to return to the Spitfire Ground on Monday for a two-day friendly ahead of the concertinaed season.

“It was a brilliant week and I’ve got very fond memories of us getting the win down there.

“It was good to have those memories fresh in mind during the lockdown period, but it also reminds us that we were playing such good cricket and lockdown came at a bad time for us.

"We wanted to build on that momentum from the back-end of last season, so it’s been frustrating.

"But it’s been a strange time for everyone and we just want to get out there and play cricket again.”

Cook rounded off the campaign with 21 wickets in the last four Championship matches to take his total to 35 in nine appearances, either side of an injury that sliced two months from his season.

“Probably having that lay-off made me more raring to go for the run-in,” says the 22-year-old.

“From a personal point of view, I felt I had a good season, though I would have liked a few more wickets.

"I felt I was bowling well before the injury, but not getting the rewards.

“But sometimes it’s not necessarily you picking up five-fers.

"Whether it’s Harmy, Ports, Sids or Beardy, whoever’s going well at the other end, it’s bowling for your partner.

"Just like batting, it’s all about partnerships: sometimes it’s your role to hold up an end and that’s as valuable as five (wickets) in a spell.”

The Essex seam attack will be without Australian spearhead Peter Siddle, whose contract was deferred for 12 months because of the pandemic.

Cook sees it as an opportunity for any one of a number of young prospects waiting in the wings.

“That’s been one of our real strengths over the last few years: that when guys have ducked out people have really stepped up to the plate. That comes from having a strong squad.

“When I got injured last season, Beardy came in and did brilliantly, as he did when Sids joined up with the Aussies.

"And I got my chance when Mo (Amir) left in 2017.

"If I had to put my money on one to do that this season it would be Ben Allison, a really exciting young bowler who got a game down on loan with Gloucestershire last season.

"He’s got an awkward action to pick up – he’s horrible to face in the nets.

"He’s tall and he gets good bounce.

"Jack Plom is another to watch out for and I’ve not mentioned Quinny, a more experienced seamer who’s struggled with injuries on and off for the last few years.”

After nearly four weeks back in training, Cook feels he is close to the level of fitness of previous pre-seasons, his rhythm and control starting to click.

He hopes to get a few overs under his belt and some mileage in his legs by playing for club side Chelmsford in their home fixture against Brentwood at the weekend before heading over the bridge next week.

“There’s only so much netting you can do,” he said.

“Actually getting overs in a game is invaluable.”

Cook spent the winter in Melbourne playing grade cricket for Prahran before being called into the England Lions squad as cover.

“It probably helped that I was out in Australia at the time,” he admits.

“But it was a brilliant experience for me, being in and around the squad and seeing how they operated.

"It’s obviously something I’ve been working towards for a while; I think it’s every player’s goal to play for England.

"I’ve just got to keep working hard, taking wickets and maybe somewhere down the line something like that might come up.”