FORMER England captain Alec Stewart led the tributes to Jonathan Batty after the Gloucestershire wicketkeeper announced his retirement from cricket.

Batty, 38, has been 'living the dream' for 18 years and played his last game for Gloucestershire against Leicestershire at Grace Road last week, having spent three years with the club following his long spell with Surrey.

It was at The Oval where he was the long-time understudy to wicket-keeper batsman Stewart, who joined the many plaudits for Batty on twitter.

Stewart wrote: "Congrats on a fine career buddy. You should be very proud of everything you've achieved."

Other former England stars such as Darren Gough, Adam Hollioake and Alex Tudor also congratulated Batty on his distinguished career, with several more messages on the social networking site coming from other current or former players on the county circuit, including his Gloucestershire team-mates, showing his popularity within the game.

Gloucestershire director of cricket John Bracewell said: "Jon has been a model professional in his time with us.

"His positive attitude on and off the field has been tremendous and he can leave the game with his head held high. He is the consummate team player."

Batty scored over 9,500 runs, with 20 centuries, plus more than 3,500 in one-day cricket with more than 650 first class dismissals plus and over 300 in List A and T20 games.

He said: "It's with great sadness that the moment has come for me to call time on my career.

"I've had an amazing 18 years playing first class cricket and living the dream. My mind is full of wonderful memories that will last forever.

"I'd like to thank Gloucestershire for the last three years. I hope I've been a positive influence and helped the side develop as they build towards a return to the top flight in the future."

Batty struggled with bat and gloves after joining Gloucestershire in the 2010 season, but he established himself as first choice behind the stumps this year and played some of his best cricket for the club in recent weeks.

The former Surrey captain hit his only half-century of the season when he scored 55 and a vital 31 not out on his final home appearance in the win over Northants, and he struck an unbeaten 40 in the second innings against Leicestershire last week, but it wasn't enough to prevent a two-wicket defeat.

Gloucestershire skipper Alex Gidman added: "Jon has never stopped putting in the required amount of effort during his time with us.

"His attitude has been great and he has contributed off the pitch as well as on it."

Gloucestershire are believed to be close to signing Gareth Roderick as Batty's replacement.

Born in South Africa to British parents, the 20-year-old scored 1,231 runs at an average of 87.93 for Cheltenham in the Glos/Wilts Division of the West of England Premier League last season and has also played for Gloucestershire seconds, hitting a century against Somerset.

* Gloucestershire finished bottom of County Championship Division Two after their narrow defeat to Leicestershire.

Josh Cobb (65) and Ned Eckersley (63) helped Leicestershire reach their target of 237 with just two wickets to spare on the final day, despite three wickets apiece for Will Gidman and James Fuller.

The improving Fuller also took 4-51 in Leicestershire's first innings total of 295, which gave them a 61-run lead after Gloucestershire were bowled out for 234.

Gidman's best score of the season of 72 saw Gloucestershire make 296 in their second innings to set up an exciting finish.

* Gloucestershire will face local rivals Somerset in the CB40 competition next season.

They have also been drawn with Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Unicorns and Yorkshire in Group C.