Essex have played down suggestions that Alastair Cook will announce his retirement from professional cricket this week, saying they will hold talks with him about his future at the end of the season when his contract with the club expires.
The Daily Mail reported on Thursday morning that Cook will call time on his career at the age of 38, five years after his final international appearance, and suggested that an announcement could come after Essex's ongoing Championship fixture - also their final home game - against Hampshire at Chelmsford.
Cook signed a two-year contract with Essex ahead of the 2022 season and has yet to agree a new deal, prompting rumours in recent weeks about an impending retirement. ESPNcricinfo understands that the club have discussed Dean Elgar as a potential overseas signing for next summer, who would represent a like-for-like replacement.
But the club responded to the Mail's story by issuing a statement saying that no decision had been reached: "Essex Cricket would like to clarify that, contrary to news articles published today, Alastair Cook will be discussing his playing future with the club at the end of the current season."
The club said that both Cook and the rest of the squad were "fully focused on the last two LV= Insurance County Championship matches and on being involved in a close-fought race for further honours."
Essex started this round of games 18 points behind leaders Surrey, but were on top against Hampshire at lunchtime on the third day while Surrey struggled against bottom-placed Northamptonshire.
Cook has been a mainstay of Essex's Championship side since his England retirement, playing 62 first-class games across the last five seasons, including this week's fixture against Hampshire. In that time, he has averaged 42.67 with 11 hundreds, and was part of sides that won the Championship in 2019 and the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020.
This season, he is the eighth-highest run-scorer in Division One with 808 at 36.72, including six half-centuries and one hundred.