Graham Ford has stepped down as head coach of the Ireland men's cricket team after four years in charge.

Ireland played 102 international matches during the South African's reign, including their debut Test match against Pakistan in 2018.

Ireland suffered a disappointing exit from last month’s T20 World Cup, where a defeat to Namibia in their final group game cost them a place in the Super 12s.

Ford, who signed a three-year contract extension in 2019, said the time is right to step away.

"The last four years have been very special for me - I have enjoyed many happy days with a cricket squad made up of very special people," he said.

"I have also enjoyed watching club cricket and experiencing the passion and club loyalty of many fine cricketing people.

"When compared with the other ICC Full Member nations, Cricket Ireland has faced many handicaps and challenges.

Ireland suffered a disappointing exit at the T20 World Cup

"Despite this, on several occasions the team has competed impressively with some of the top teams in world cricket and it has been a privilege for me to experience first-hand the character and togetherness of the Irish players.

"However, over a period of time these challenges and handicaps have taken their toll on me. After much consideration and discussion with my family, I realise that this is the right time for me to step away from Cricket Ireland.

"I’d like to end by thanking all the players and the support staff for their impressive attitudes and loyal support during the four years and I look forward to watching them achieve big things in the future."

Ford steps down from coaching duties immediately and will go on leave as he sees out his contractual notice period, which takes him into mid-December.

Ireland, who head for a tour of America next month before a white-ball series against the West Indies in January, will announce their interim coaching plans in the coming weeks.

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie described Ford as one of the best coaches he ever worked with.

"I feel very fortunate that I got to spend four years working with him, not just for the playing development side of my game, but for his incredible support during my captaincy to date," he said.

"We have had our challenges over the last number of years as a squad, but his consistent positivity has been infectious and his determination to improve the skills of everyone in the squad has brought some of our young cricketers on leaps and bounds.

"I think more important than anything is that Fordy is a brilliant person and one that will be greatly missed in and around the squad, and on behalf of the group of players we wish him nothing but the best in the future."

Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's high performance director, said it was a sad day to lose a "truly world-class coach".

Holdsworth said: "I know, from working closely with Graham, that the difficulties of managing his workload during the Covid pandemic has been particularly taxing - the constant travelling around Ireland to train with players, lengthy periods living within bio-bubbles, and the burdens of coaching for large periods under travel restrictions and a recruitment freeze which prevented us from hiring coaching support to name but a few challenges.

"No one will truly know or appreciate how many hours Graham put in taking one-on-one sessions with senior players during Covid – such was his commitment and desire to not see the development of a crop of young players stunted by the pandemic’s restrictions.

"He has barely taken a day off voluntarily in his four years here, such is his commitment, and probably hasn’t had a sustained break from the game for well over two decades."