Cricket: Joe Root favourite to be new England Test skipper

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Sheffield's Joe Root is the overwhelming favourite to be the next England Test captain after Alastair Cook stepped down earlier today.

Cook was appointed skipper in August 2012 and was in charge for 59 Tests, leading England to Ashes victories in 2013 and 2015. The 32-year-old is England's most-capped Test captain as well as their most prolific batsman, scoring 11,057 runs in 140 Tests.

Root, England's best batsman and Cook's vice-captain, is the obvious choice to take over but head coach Trevor Bayliss indicated last week that all options would be looked at.

''I think you could throw a few of them in the mix and find they've got the respect of the rest of their team-mates,'' he said when discussing who could succeed Cook.

''The thing is with this group of cricketers, they're all very close, they're good mates and they respect each other.''

Cook's last series as captain was the 4-0 defeat to India late last year and he said: "It's been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years.

"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, the chairman, 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."

Director of England Cricket Andrew Strauss paid tribute to Cook and will now turn his attention to appointing a successor.

He said: "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.

"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.

"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 22nd February."

Although Strauss has indicated an announcement will be made on a successor to Cook before the end of the month, England do not play another Test now until July. Cook's captaincy tenure was one of highs and lows.

He first led England to a series win in Bangladesh while his predecessor Strauss was rested in 2010, but his captaincy era began in earnest with perhaps one of his finest hours when he delivered his country's first victory in India for 28 years in 2012.

Trips to India, with hugely contrasting outcomes, have therefore bookended his reign.

In between, he had fluctuating fortunes too in the Ashes.

Those two home wins were separated by the 2013/14 debacle.

England were whitewashed 5-0, a result with a messy aftermath in which both coach Andy Flower and mercurial batsman Kevin Pietersen had to move on.

Cook survived to lead his team alongside two more coaches - Peter Moores and incumbent Trevor Bayliss - although he lost the captaincy of the limited-overs team in late 2014, just two months before England's miserably unsuccessful World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand under Eoin Morgan.

The Ashes did return to Cook's England in 2015, however - and he began a taxing 2016 by also completing series victory in South Africa.

Cook's famed runscoring rarely abated throughout, and last summer he became the first Englishman to top 10,000 Test runs in the series-clinching victory over Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street.

He made his Test debut as a 21-year-old in Nagpur in March 2006, having flown in from an England A tour in the West Indies as an urgent replacement, and duly responded with his maiden hundred in the second innings.

The tally of centuries clicked over to 30, once more against India, in the drawn first Test of the vexed 2016/17 tour in Rajkot.

It was also while there, though, that Cook found himself answering questions about his captaincy future after giving an interview to the Cricketer magazine in which he spoke of the attractions of returning to the ranks at some point.

Before the following Test in Vizag, Strauss made it clear he was expecting Cook to lead England into the next Ashes in 2017/18. But four heavy defeats later, Cook himself began to have second thoughts which culminated eventually in his February resignation.