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 is 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.

However, after his contract expired at the county at the end of the recently completed domestic season, Cook, 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 on Essex  in a statement on the county’s website. “For more than two decades, cricket has been so much more than my job.

"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.

“It has allowed me to experience places I never dreamed I would go, be part of teams that have achieved things I would never have thought possible and, most importantly, created deep friendships that will last a lifetime.

“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.

“It is the right time for this part of my life to come to an end."

Essex Cricket, responding to the announcement, wanted to place on record its wholehearted congratulations to Cook on a truly illustrious career.

The Club said that they were delighted to have been Cook’s home county for the past two decades and is hugely grateful for all his efforts in an Essex shirt.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Essex Cricket celebrate Alistair CookEssex Cricket celebrate Alistair Cook (Image: Essex Cricket)

Cook was capped by the club in May 2005, and won six titles across a lengthy career, including the club’s first County Championship title in 25 years.

“It’s been a pleasure and a privilege in equal measure to share a field with Chef,” said Club captain, Tom Westley. “His record speaks for itself, but my experiences with him as a person have been nothing but positive too.

“Not only is he one of England’s and Essex’s greatest cricketers, but what sets him apart is the person and human that he is. He is the epitome of ‘team first’.

“He has always strived to improve as a person, and one thing that has struck me over the last few years has been his humour. He has miraculously become very funny!

“He’s been a wonderful friend within and outside of cricket, and it’s been an honour to share many of my most treasured memories with him over such a long period of time.

“Like many, he has helped me in some of my toughest times, purely just by being Chef. I, we, and the whole of Essex will miss him so much.”

John Stephenson, chief executive Officer, added: “Many great players have walked out to the middle at Chelmsford, but by sheer weight of runs, Alastair is undoubtedly up there with the very best of them.

“I know from my conversations with our members and supporters that it’s been a great pleasure and privilege to watch him bat here at Chelmsford, and I can also attest to that.

“Both on behalf of the club and from a personal point of view, I would like to thank Alastair for all he has done for his county, his country, and his sport, and I wish him the very best as he departs as a true legend.”