LONDON -  Alastair Cook resigned as England Test captain on Monday after a record 59 matches in the role, saying it was "a sad day" but the right decision for the team.

Yorkshire batsman Joe Root is the strong favourite to take over with an announcement expected in the next fortnight, as England build towards the Ashes in Australia at the end of the year. Cook, England's leading scorer in Tests with 11,057 runs, became captain in August 2012 and led his country to Ashes glory on home soil in 2013 and 2015 as well as series wins in India and South Africa.

"It's been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years," Cook, 32, who intends to carry on playing Test cricket, said in a statement. "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."

Cook's decision to stand down follows England's 4-0 series defeat in India at the end of last year, which put pressure on him to quit. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said a "proper process" had started to appoint a successor, with the team not in Test action again until July. Cook, who also led England in a record 69 one-day internationals between 2010 and 2014, is the country's most capped Test skipper and has scored more Test centuries than any previous captain.

He was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2012 and ICC (International Cricket Council) World Test Captain in 2013. He tendered his resignation to England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves on Sunday. "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," Cook added. "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."

England's director of cricket Andrew Strauss said Cook had made a "fantastic contribution" and "deserves to be seen as one of our country's great captains". "We now move on with the process of appointing the right successor," Strauss said. "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."

A classically elegant left-handed opening batsman, the square-jawed Cook took charge of the England Test team following Strauss's retirement from the game in August 2012. In his first tour as captain he led England to a first series win in India in 28 years, hitting centuries in the first three Tests.

His first Ashes series in 2013 ended in triumph and after a harrowing 5-0 whitewash in Australia in 2013-14, England regained the urn in 2015. Cook oversaw a historic series win in South Africa in 2015-16 and last year England came within one win against Pakistan of topping the ICC Test rankings.

He went 35 Test innings without a century between May 2013 and March 2015, but the milestones have continued to stack up. He was the first England batsman to reach 10,000 and then 11,000 Test runs and sits 10th in the all-time list, 4,864 runs behind the record held by the great Sachin Tendulkar.

Cook's mentor Graham Gooch, the former England captain, told BBC Radio 5 Live he had tried to convince the Essex man to stay in the role. "This type of sportsman only comes once in a generation, maybe less," Gooch said. "He's a great man and he's still got great things to do for his country."