Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook has brought the curtain down on his record-breaking cricket career, saying: “It is the right time for this part of my life to come to an end.”

The left-handed opener’s 12,472 Test runs are the most by any English batter, placing him fifth in the all-time list, but after retiring from international duty in 2018, he carried on playing for Essex.

His contract at the county expired at the conclusion of the domestic season last month and the 38-year-old, part of Essex’s County Championship-winning side in 2019, has elected against seeking a renewal.

“It is not easy to say goodbye,” Cook said in a statement. “For more than two decades, cricket has been so much more than my job. It is the right time for this part of my life to come to an end.

“I have always given absolutely everything I possibly have to be the best player I could be, but now I want to make way for the new generation to take over.

“From the eight-year-old boy who first played for Wickham Bishops Under 11s to now, I end with a strange feeling of sadness mixed with pride. Although, above all, I am incredibly happy.”

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath had hoped “we’ll see him for a bit longer” as speculation swirled about Cook’s future after the Chelmsford club finished runners-up to Surrey in the championship.

But Cook’s decision to retire ends a remarkable career which began in 2003, impressing enough early on to earn the first of 161 Test caps three years later against India in Nagpur, making a ton on debut.

Sir Alastair Cook amassed 33 Test hundreds for England (Adam Davy/PA)
Sir Alastair Cook amassed 33 Test hundreds for England (Adam Davy/PA)

He went on to amass another 32 Test centuries – an England record – and was part of Ashes series wins in 2009, 2010/11, 2013 and 2015, captaining them in the latter two. His 766 runs in the 2010/11 series saw him crowned player of the series and helped England seal a first win Down Under since 1986/87.

Cook won 24 of his 59 Tests as England captain between 2010 and 2016 and skippered the ODI side between 2010 and 2014 before being unceremoniously axed just months before the World Cup the following year.

He bowed out of England duty with a hundred against India at the Kia Oval in September 2018 and was given a knighthood for services to cricket a few months later in the New Year Honours List.

“Although my England career came to an end in 2018, I remain blown away by the amount of affection I receive from England supporters,” Cook said.

“Wherever I have travelled, you have been there with your enthusiasm, kind words and unshakeable belief. English cricket really does have the best fans in the world.

“I will never underestimate the privilege I have had to play cricket. I will always be grateful for what the game has given to me.”

After the end of a distinguished international career, Cook showed he still had plenty of appetite and was Essex’s leading run-scorer in their 2019 championship triumph, while he topped the charts in the Covid-shortened summer of 2020 to help his side go all the way in the Bob Willis Trophy.

The last of his 352 first-class appearances – in which he registered 26,643 runs and 74 hundreds at an average of 46.41, fractionally above his Test mark of 45.35 – came against Northamptonshire a fortnight ago. In sharp contrast to his fairytale England exit, Cook made two single-figure scores.

Cook helped Essex win the 2019 County Championship (Steven Paston/PA)
Cook helped Essex win the 2019 County Championship (Steven Paston/PA)

Cook – who thanked his family and the staff at Essex as well as mentor Graham Gooch in his farewell statement – added: “When I ended my international career, I had no idea that I would have five more bonus years playing for Essex. I cannot put into words just how much fun we have had during that time.

“Playing a full part in the season when Essex won the County Championship in 2019 is one of my favourite achievements in the game.

“I look forward to watching Essex continue to punch above their weight, hopefully winning many more trophies in the coming years.

“Now, I hope the Bedfordshire Farmers will find space for a has-been ‘all-rounder’ somewhere in their lower order.”

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