The England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed Andrew Strauss as successor to Kevin Pietersen in a day of speculation and rumour which saw the departure of both Pietersen and coach Peter Moores.
|Strauss has a busy schedule ahead as captain [GALLO/GETTY]
Coach Peter Moores' departure had been expected after Pietersen publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the standard of his coaching and selection decisions, but a change in captaincy would throw preparations for this year's Ashes series into disarray.
Strauss was a contender in 2006 when England was set to contest the Ashes in Australia with regular on-field leader Michael Vaughan out injured.
Strauss has deputised as England captain five times, winning three tests and losing two, but all-rounder Andrew Flintoff was appointed instead and the team lost the series 5-0 in the worst ever Ashes defence.
British bookmaker William Hill rated Strauss the overwhelming favourite to lead the team against Australia as soon as Pietersen's exit was reported, and the 31-year-old opening batsman was seen visiting Lord's withnational selector Geoff Miller.
Strauss, who has hit 14 centuries in 55 tests, has already shown he can flourish in the role.
With Vaughan injured, he led the team against Pakistan in July 2006 and hit a second-innings 128 for the highest test score by an Englishman leading his country for the first time.
He then hit another ton in the third test to lead England to a 2-0 series victory.
Pietersen is rumoured to have refused to lead the team on a test and one-day series in the West Indies that starts on January 21 unless the ECB acted over his unhappiness with Moore's coaching and selection.
The ruling body may have refused to back him and interpreted this as his resignation because it was unhappy at his attempt to dictate policy while on holiday in South Africa.
In Pietersen's resignation statement he said:
"Contrary to media speculation today, I wish to make it very clear that I did not resign as captain of the England cricket team this morning.
"However, in light of recent communications of the ECB and the unfortunate media stories and speculation that have subsequently appeared, I now consider that it would be extremely difficult for me to continue in my current position with the England cricket team.
"Accordingly, I have as of this afternoon decided to stand down as England captain with immediate effect.
"Notwithstanding my resignation as England captain, I still fully intend to be a part of both England's test and one-day international squads to tour the West Indies next month and to do all I can to recapture the Ashes during the summer.
British broadcaster Sky TV said it had spoken by telephone to Pietersen and that he said he was "not in a fit state to talk.''
Director of cricket Hugh Morris and chief executive David Collier have been under pressure to find a solution to the conflict before the team flies to the Caribbean.
The West Indies also visits England this year before the five-test Ashes series against Australia - the biennial highlight of the cricket calendar for both sides.
England had been rumoured to be looking to Kent's former South Africa coach, Graham Ford, or Tom Moody, an Australia all-rounder who coached Sri Lanka, to succeed Moores.
But that was when the idea was to find a coach to work alongside Pietersen.
|Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores did not see eye to eye [GALLO/GETTY
Sky and the Cricinfo Web site said that Moores quit following an emergency ECB board meeting late Tuesday and that Andy Flower would be put in temporary charge.
Pietersen was appointed captain after Michael Vaughan resigned following a home series loss to South Africa.
He led the team to victory in the final test of that series, but England lost a recent two-match series 1-0 in India and Pietersen has been criticised by some observers as being tactically naive.
Before leaving for a two-week break in South Africa following the tour of India, Pietersen told Moores he wanted Vaughan recalled to tour the West Indies despite the Yorkshire batsman hardly playing for the past four months.
Vaughan was left out of the squad despite Pietersen's request and, since then, reports of his disputes with Moores have been made daily.
Strauss made his England debut against New Zealand in May 2004 at his home
ground of Lord's.
The Middlesex batsman struck 112 in the first innings to become just the 15th Englishman to score a century on test debut and was run out on 83 in the second innings.
After a successful series against West Indies and a tour to South Africa on which he averaged 72.88 and reached 1,000 runs in his 10th test, Strauss was firmly established by the time of the 2005 Ashes.
He was the only player on either team to hit two centuries in the series as England won the urn for the first time since 1987.