FORMER England captain Sir Alastair Cook has found fulfilment after returning full-time to the county set-up and is prepared to play on beyond the end of this season if that enjoyment continues.

After bringing down the curtain on his record-breaking England career in the summer of 2018, Cook signed a three-year contract at Essex and has helped them to County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy glory since then.

Cook is heading into the final year of his deal and while he was reluctant to categorically confirm he will carry on after this campaign, the left-handed opener suggested that is an enticing option.

“We’ll see how it goes and see how I feel at the end of it and what happens,” he said.

“I’m a bit in limbo in one sense because in three months’ time I might think ‘do you know what, it’s time for someone else to take my role’.

“I hadn’t really played a huge amount (at Essex) up until 2018 and I’ve enjoyed that, without the real scrutiny and the pressure of playing international cricket.

“In county cricket you’re going back to basics in one sense: you’re batting, catching and enjoying why you started it. While I’ve still got that there and the support of my family then I can continue.

“I’m not going to sit here and give some massive statement but while I’m in this situation and the sun’s shining and I find the middle of my bat more often than my pad, then I’ll continue.”

The 36-year-old, who amassed an England record 12,472 runs in 161 Tests, revealed he ticked an item off his bucket list after helping Essex to county honours in 2019 before they lifted the Bob Willis Trophy 12 months later.

Cook featured in a handful of games when the county ended their 25-year wait for the county crown in 2017 but told Chris Silverwood – who then oversaw Essex and is now England head coach – that his burning ambition was to play a full part in winning the domestic first-class title.

He said: “There were a couple of reasons I carried on playing. Firstly I didn’t know what I wanted to do and it was a big hole to fill when all you’ve ever done is play cricket and also, I wanted to win a trophy for Essex.

“I was part of 2017 and played the first six or seven games but I didn’t play the whole season. I spoke to Chris Silverwood and on my bucket list was to win the County Championship, so to do it in the first year was brilliant.

“Last year was very different but very enjoyable. Hopefully we can continue that.

“The motivation will be there because you don’t want to disgrace yourself, you don’t want to look stupid, and there’s no better feeling than scoring runs.”

A sensational 172 from Cook underpinned Essex getting their hands on the Bob Willis Trophy after a drawn final against Somerset at Lord’s, which was held behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.

However, the possibility of crowds returning this summer was welcomed by Cook.

“Walking out at the MCG at a full house or The Oval when we won the 2009 Ashes and the atmosphere there, you can’t buy that anywhere, you can’t have that experience anywhere else unless you’re living it,” Cook added.

“We really notice it as players and in every team when fans are finally allowed back, we’ll really appreciate it.”