JAMES Foster says he leaves Essex with ‘great sadness’ after a spell of almost two decades at the club came to an end.

The 38-year-old wicketkeeper made his debut for Essex in 200 and went on to make a total of 638 appearances, accumulating 839 first-class dismissals.

But Foster, who has also made seven Test appearances for England, is now stepping aside.

“I have really enjoyed my 19 years as a professional cricketer and it is with great sadness that I will no longer be an Essex player,” said Foster. “It has been a real privilege to play for my home county and I am extremely proud to have represented England.

“Thank you to all the Essex players for making it such an enjoyable changing room and winning the County Championship in 2017 was one of my happiest memories. What I appreciated most at the club was the way coaches, management, support staff, stewards and supporters have always made my family feel so welcome at the club, for that, I am truly grateful.

“I feel it is especially important to highlight Stuart Turner, Joe Hussain, Graeme Fowler, Nasser Hussain, Graham Gooch, Dave Houghton, Paul Farbrace, Andy Flower, Nick Wilton and Bruce French. They were all instrumental in my development at various stages within my career and they are probably unaware of the impact they had.”

Foster was a key figure in Essex success in the Pro40 League in 2005 and 2006, the NatWest Trophy in 2008, and back-to-back County Championship triumphs.

And Foster, who maintains he will remain an Essex fan, is now looking forward to the next phase in his career.

“I am delighted to be working with Sydney Thunder underneath Shane Bond in the upcoming BBL and again with the Mahela Jayawardene at the Khulna Titans in the BPL this winter. Before that, I am very excited to be coaching the Afghanistan Boost Defenders during the ADT20 in Abu Dhabi and I will also continue to coach the talented youngsters at Forest School.”

Essex Captain Ryan ten Doeschate added: “I can’t put into words how great it’s been to share a dressing room with Fozzy.

“He’s been the rock at Essex for all of the time I’ve played here, the most thorough professional and a cherished friend through thick and thin.”