SOMERSET'S second place curse has struck again, as Essex clung on to secure the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy at Lord's.

Somerset set their opponents 287 to win the final, and claimed the prize scalp of Sir Alastair Cook thanks to Lewis Gregory, but the 2019 County Championship winners stood firm as the match ended in a draw.

Ultimately Cook's magnificent first-innings score of 172 proved the difference, with Essex being awarded the trophy on the basis of their first innings of 337-8 to Somerset's 301 all out.

Tom Lammonby's 116 led Somerset to an overnight score of 227-7, and they declared early on the fifth and final day, with Craig Overton (45*) and Josh Davey (16*) taking them up to 272-7.

Essex made a solid start to their reply, only to lose Nick Browne (13) - caught by Tom Abell off Gregory (2-52) - and Tom Westley (0) - trapped in front by Overton (1-37) - in successive overs, to sink to 26-2.

The crucial wicket was that of Cook, though, and he remained in place to take his side to 61-2 at lunch, alongside Dan Lawrence.

It was Gregory who had eventually dismissed Cook (31) in the first innings, and he had the former England captain's number again, having him caught behind by Davies - not that Cook appeared impressed with the umpire's decision.

If that dismissal could be disputed, there was little doubt about Lawrence's departure for 35, as he was plumb lbw to Jack Leach (3-38).

That was the Somerset spinner's first wicket of a summer largely spent as an England reserve, and he had a second when Paul Walter (21) was also trapped lbw.

Walter and Ryan ten Doeschate (46 off 137 balls) had done a pragmatic job in blocking out the ball and eating up overs, though, and Adam Wheater (14* off 80) followed suit.

In scenes reminiscent of Taunton in 2019, when Essex held on to draw the final County Championship match of the season to clinch the title, Somerset just ran out of time with a further four wickets required.

Abell turned to Eddie Byrom's part-time leg-spin and then Lammonby in a desperate attempt to force a breakthrough, but Somerset's attack - the outstanding bowling unit in county cricket this season - could not pull off one final miracle.

Leach claimed a third wicket in the penultimate over, as ten Doeschate attempted to sweep but simply looped the ball to George Bartlett, but Essex were comfortable in finishing on 179-6 from 81 overs.

The result means Essex add the Bob Willis Trophy to the County Championships won in 2017 and 2019, while Somerset's outstanding red-ball season ends with a familiar second place - the same position they finished in the 2016, 2018 and 2019 Championships.