ESSEX opening batsman Alastair Cook has quit as captain of England’s Test match captain.

The ECB confirmed that it had accepted Cook’s resignation yesterday.

Cook, whose future in charge of the side had been in question since the 4-0 Test series defeat to India at the back end of last year, skippered the Test side a record 59 times.

The 32-year-old said: “It’s been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years.

“Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team.

“I’ve had time to reflect after the India series and this weekend I spoke to Colin Graves, the chairman, to explain and offer my resignation.

“It’s a sad day personally in many ways but I want to thank everyone I’ve captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support.

“Playing for England really is a privilege and I hope to carry on as a Test player, making a full contribution and helping the next England captain and the team however I can.”

Ex-Essex and England bowler Derek Pringle believes that Cook, who is expected to be succeeded by Joe Root, was right to step down but should look back on his time in charge with satisfaction.

Pringle, 58, said: “He looked a broken man in the last Test in Chennai and I think there is a lifespan to these jobs [as captain] and he has done it for more than four years.

“I would not say that he has been one of England’s best captains.

“But he won the first Test series in India for nearly 30 years and he also won two Ashes series. He can be proud of his time as captain.”

Essex and England legend Graham Gooch has admitted he tried to convince Cook not to quit.

Gooch said: “I told him to stay. His sort of sportsman only comes along once in a generation, maybe even less.

“He’s a great man and he’s still got great things to do for his country.”

Nasser Hussain, who also captained England during his playing career, praised Cook for his time as skipper.

Hussain said: “As England captain, you’re more than just a leader. You’re also an ambassador for your country, and I don’t think anyone can doubt what a great and fantastic ambassador for the game and the country Alastair Cook has been.

“He’s been a very dignified captain of England.”