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Cook steps down from England captaincy

Alastair Cook has stepped down from his role after 59 Tests as England captain. His appetite to continue had been questioned during England's 4-0 defeat to India before Christmas and Cook has now confirmed he will pass on the captaincy, with Joe Root his likely successor.

Appointed in August 2012, Cook led the team in more Test matches than any other England captain. His record includes Ashes victories at home in 2013 and 2015, as well as series wins in India and South Africa. With 24 Test wins, he is joint-second as England's most successful captain but five losses in seven Tests over the winter meant he also eclipsed Michael Atherton's record for defeats.

Cook discussed his decision with Colin Graves, the chairman of the ECB, on Sunday evening and has confirmed his continuing commitment to playing Test cricket to Andrew Strauss, England's team director, and the selectors. Strauss suggested Cook's replacement would be named before the ODI tour to the West Indies later this month, with Root favourite to be be named as England's new captain - the 80th in their Test history - in the coming days.

Cook, 32, is England's most-capped Test player, their most prolific batsman with 11,057 runs in 140 Tests to date, and has scored more Test centuries than any of his countrymen. He also led the one-day side on 69 occasions between 2010 and 2014, another England record.

During his five seasons at the helm he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year (2012) and ICC World Test Captain (2013) and his services to the game were recognised with a CBE - collected at Buckingham Palace on Friday - to follow the MBE he was awarded in 2011.

"It's been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years," Cook said. "Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team. I've had time to reflect after the India series and this weekend I spoke to Colin Graves to explain and offer my resignation.

"It's a sad day personally in many ways but I want to thank everyone I've captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support.

"Playing for England really is a privilege and I hope to carry on as a Test player, making a full contribution and helping the next England captain and the team however I can."

Strauss, the man from whom Cook inherited the Test captaincy in 2012, paid tribute to his former opening partner and explained the next steps in appointing a successor.

"I want to thank Alastair, on behalf of the ECB and from a personal perspective, for the fantastic contribution that he's made to the England Test team since taking over as captain in 2012," Strauss said.

"His country owes him a great debt of gratitude; he's led the team with determination, conviction and a huge amount of pride over the last five years and his record stands for itself. With more matches leading the team than anyone, including two Ashes wins, he deserves to be seen as one of our country's great captains.

"Off the field as well as on, he has shown his strengths, developing the team and its culture, managing a fundamental transition and helping us to build for the future. As with all leaders, there have been times where circumstances have tested him but his resilience and temperament have helped him to prevail and to prosper.

"He has always served with the best interests of the team in the front of his mind and stays true to that as he steps down from the role. Alastair will be missed in his capacity as captain but I hope that he has a number of years left to add to his record-breaking feats as an opening batsman and look forward to his continued success.

"We now move on with the process of appointing the right successor. There are a number of established players who are playing formal or informal leadership roles and whilst we've rightly not spoken to anyone in relation to the Test captaincy so far, we can now talk fully and openly within the team. We expect to be able to make an announcement before the team head to the West Indies on February 22."

Cook first captained England in Bangladesh in 2010, deputising for the rested Strauss. After taking over permanently in 2012, Cook led from the front with three centuries as England came from behind to win their first Test series in India in 28 years. England retained the Ashes with a 3-0 win the following summer but cracks were beginning to show and Australia took swift revenge a few months later.

The 5-0 whitewash left England needing to rebuild, and the decision to do so without the involvement of Kevin Pietersen was one of the most controversial of Cook's reign. Beaten at home by Sri Lanka at the start of the 2014 summer, England then lost the second Test to India at Lord's, prompting Cook to consider resigning. He chose to continue but his hopes of leading England at the 2015 World Cup were dashed when the ECB sacked him less than two months before the tournament.

He subsequently oversaw the regeneration of the Test side, as players such as Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow helped England to regain the Ashes in 2015 and then secure a memorable win in South Africa the following winter.

Although England's progress was recently checked by two difficult tours of the subcontinent - drawing 1-1 with Bangladesh before being outclassed by India - Cook had retained the support of his players and the coaching staff. His decision to step down comes during a seven-month gap between Test commitments and gives his successor time to prepare for home series against South Africa and West Indies, before the challenge of another Ashes tour to Australia.