ALASTAIR Cook says Essex are determined to get promoted.

He was speaking ahead of Essex’s first county championship game of the season against Derbyshire on Sunday.

The England skipper – who has been cleared to play in Essex’s opening four matches of the championship season starting on Sunday – says the county’s ambition is to get into the top tier of English cricket.

“The goal is to get up there and the long-term goal would be to stay there,” Cook said. “We need to punch above our weight as there are a lot of big clubs with much bigger budgets.

“We’ve always had a very good production line with players that have come all the way through the age groups, now we need to take the final step with those players becoming really good county players.”

Essex warmed up for Sunday’s opener at Chelmsford with a comprehensive 335 run win over Cambridge University.

This season’s county cricket schedule will see all four-day championship games start on Sundays.

As well as Cook, Essex will also have England stars Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar in their team to face Derbyshire.