SIR Alastair Cook has today announced his retirement from cricket.

Cook made 161 Test Match appearances for England and scored 12,472 Test runs and 33 centuries, both England records.

Cook scored 11,845 runs as a Test opener, more than any other international player.

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

In all, he hit 15,077 all-format runs for the club, making a huge contribution over the past 20 years.

Cook said: “It is not easy to say goodbye. For more than two decades, cricket has been so much more than my job.

“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. 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.

In a statement, Essex Cricket Club said: "Essex Cricket would like to place on record its wholehearted congratulations to Cook on a truly illustrious career.

"The Club is 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.

"He hangs up his bat having established himself as one of the greatest to ever play our sport, and all at Essex Cricket wish him further great success in his future endeavours."

Essex club captain Tom Westley said: “It’s been a pleasure and a privilege in equal measure to share a field with Chef.

"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.”

Essex chief executive officer John Stephenson said: “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.”