ESSEX head coach Paul Grayson believes Alastair Cook has been the victim of a “witch-hunt” following England’s series defeat against Sri Lanka.

Skipper Cook presided over a sixth defeat in seven matches for England, who lost the second Test off the penultimate ball at Headingley on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old opener has seen his form dip over recent months and his tactics in the field against Sri Lanka have also come under fire.

It has prompted former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott to suggest that the former Maldon CC youngster’s current form is a “recipe for resignation”.

But Grayson feels that the stick that Cook has received is unfair – and has backed him to turn things around.

Grayson said: “A lot of people have gone hard on him this last week or so and I don’t think he deserves that.

“I think there’s a bit of a witch-hunt towards Alastair Cook at the moment and I don’t think it’s his fault.

“He’s probably aware that he might have made a few mistakes.

“But it’s up to the group and the senior players to get England out of this little hole they’re in.

“He won’t walk away – he’s a strong character. He has been through this before, not as a captain but as a player.

“He’s had a good record since he took over as England captain, despite there being a little bit of a blip recently.

“But the English mentality is always to go hard at the nice guys and I know Cooky has given his heart and soul to Essex and England for the last ten years.

“He’s a rock solid bloke and he’ll come back strongly from this.”

Cook will now take a short break from the game, ahead of England’s forthcoming Test opener with India on July 9.

He will not feature in Essex’s County Championship game with Gloucestershire, which starts on Sunday.

“I’ve received an email from England saying that he’s having a bit of time away and I think that’s right,” added Grayson.

“He’s had a lot on and everyone has had an opinion about Alastair Cook, over the last couple of weeks.

“I think he now has two weeks before the next Test and he can go and look at his game and areas he wants to work on.”