Alastair Cook said his retirement from international cricket has been an "18-month process" after he ended his Test batting career with a century against India in the fifth Test at The Oval.
His 147 helped England set the tourists an unlikely 464 to win, with India closing the fourth day on 58-3.
"The timing is right," said Cook. "This has been an 18-month process.
"I started noticing things in my game and preparation were missing. That edge isn't there."
Cook, speaking to Sky Sports, added: "It doesn't mean you haven't got it sometimes and when it's your day you can still score runs.
"But there is definitely something missing, even though this was a great day."
Cook scored 71 in the first innings and his contribution looks like giving England a 4-1 series win against the world's number one-ranked side.
The left-hander, 33, who has scored more runs and made more centuries for England than any other Test player, announced this would be the last of his 161 Tests before the match.
He has since been given numerous standing ovations and Cook, who surpassed Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara to become the fifth-highest run-scorer in Test cricket, said: "There was definitely a lump in my throat at the start and I did shed a tear.
"I've got 30 friends and family here too. It's just one of those days where you'll forever look back and think, 'wow'.
"Ever since I announced my retirement, I hoped to have a good week here but to top it off with a score was just incredible. Sometimes dreams do come true."
|Highest run-scorers in Test history|
|S Tendulkar (India)||200||329||15,921||53.78||248*|
|R Ponting (Australia)||168||287||13,378||51.85||257|
|J Kallis (South Africa)||166||280||13,289||55.37||224|
|R Dravid (India)||164||286||13,288||52.31||270|
|A Cook (England)||161||291||12,472||45.35||294|
|*denotes not out|
How Cook wrote his fairytale script
by Amy Lofthouse, BBC Sport at The Oval
Cook was given a standing ovation on his way out to bat on Monday and his every run was applauded by a near-capacity crowd.
Although his century was brought up in bizarre fashion - a loose shy at the stumps by Jasprit Bumrah ending up at the boundary rope - it was a special moment for Cook and the crowd, who sang his name as he raised his bat.
His wife Alice, who is due to give birth to the couple's third child any day, and his young daughters Elsie and Isabelle, were in south London to witness his fairytale final innings.
Cook, who started on 46 overnight, may have once doubted his popularity among England fans but there was no mistaking the warmth he was held in at The Oval on Monday.
The crowd stood when he came out to bat and again when he reached his half-century with a clip off his hip early in the morning session.
There was near silence as each India bowler ran in to bowl. If Cook felt tense, he did not show it.
He frequently cut spinner Ravindra Jadeja whenever he dropped short, and ran well with captain Joe Root to advance towards three figures.
A failed appeal for a catch at silly point with Cook on 72 was greeted with a sigh of relief by the crowd, before a thick inside edge saw Cook surpass Sangakkara's Test tally.
A straight drive for four off Bumrah, followed by a single off the hips, took him to 96, the crowd once again getting to their feet, before Jadeja returned to the attack.
Cook rocked back and cut through point for what should have been a single but a wayward throw saw four overthrows added to his total and made him only the fifth batsman in history to score a century in their first and final Test.
He was embraced by Root, before turning and acknowledging the lengthy, warm applause from the crowd.
BBC Test Match Special commentator Daniel Norcross described the response as "like an encore at the theatre" as Cook, the focus of the applause, stood and raised his bat for the final time.
What they (and you) said
Test Match Special's Daniel Norcross: "The crowd will all be able to say that they were there."
Former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent: "An amazing day. I don't think anyone really cares about anything right now other than Alastair Cook. I know I don't."
Here's a selection of comments from readers of our live text...
Charles Tilley: "That celebration, can't get over that. Absolutely fantastic! Goosebumps!"
Bowser: "Absolutely superb scenes! What a man. What an absolutely sensational time to be alive. 33rd hundred for the great man!"
Tim Carlisle: "I don't feel the slightest bit silly standing to attention in my home office, by myself clapping..."
Sian Culley: "With you in a minute, just composing myself after unexpectedly bursting into tears at Alastair Cook's century."
Benjamin: "Didn't Cook score his Oval ton in 2010 against Pakistan, the potentially career saving one, on overthrows also?"
How's stat?! - The numbers behind Cook's final innings & career
- Cook joins Reggie Duff, Bill Ponsford, Greg Chappell and Mohammad Azharuddin as players to score a century on Test debut and in their final matches
- It is his 15th second-innings century - the most by any batsman in Test cricket
- Cook has scored more runs than any left-handed batsman in Test cricket, after leapfrogging Kumar Sangakkara
- Most centuries in the third innings of a Test (13)
- Across his career, Cook averaged 42.57 against pace and 52.77 against spin
- Across his entire Test career, Cook played 5,283 leaves, the most of anyone in the CricViz database.
- Cook scored more runs against Mitchell Johnson (362) than against any other Test bowler. Of bowlers to never dismiss him, Cook scored more runs against Tim Southee (241) than any other.
- No bowler dismissed Cook more times than Morne Morkel, who did so on 12 occasions. No bowler to dismiss Cook at least five times had a lower bowling average against him than Stuart Clark, who averaged just 7.00.
Source: TMS and Cricviz
Cook's career in numbers
- Test appearances - 161
- Innings - 291
- Runs - 12,472
- Average - 45.35
- Centuries - 33
- Half-centuries - 57
- Balls faced - 26,562
- Minutes batted - 37,308
- Highest score - 294 (v India, 2011)
How many of Alastair Cook’s Test opening partners can you name?