32-year-old Cook, who received a CBE last Friday, steps down from the role as England’s most decorated captain in terms of caps, centuries and runs, and guided his country to two Ashes series victories in 2013 and 2015.
He will remain available for selection though, with England unlikely to drop him given they do not yet have a regular opening partner for him in Test cricket, and the ECB confirmed they hope to announce his successor before the tour of the West Indies.
A statement issued by the ECB read: “Alastair Cook has stepped down from his role after 59 Tests as England Test captain.”
It added: “Cook discussed his decision with the Chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, Colin Graves, on Sunday evening and has confirmed his continuing commitment to playing Test cricket to Director of England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, and the selectors.
“His resignation has been accepted, the Board have been informed and the proper process has started to appoint the next Test captain - the 80th in England’s Test match history.”
Cook replaced former opening batsman partner Andrew Strauss in 2012 as captain following his retirement, and led England to their first series victory in India since 1984/85 with the 2-1 victory, becoming the first captain in international cricket to score centuries in his first five matches since taking on the role.
He led England to the Champions Trophy final in 2013, only to suffer a five-run defeat by India, before leading England to Ashes glory as they won the 2013 series 3-0. However, that jubilation soon turned to despair as England were whitewashed 5-0 in the immediate return series in 2-13/14, which led to calls for Cook to step down from his role.
He rebounded soon after though by leading England to a 3-1 home series victory over India in 2014, though he was removed as One-Day International captain at the end of the year ahead of the 2015 Cricket World Cup due to his poor form in the shorter format.
He continued to lead the Test side though, and oversaw further series victories over South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia, winning back the Ashes in the process with a 3-2 victory.
This year proved tricky for Cook though, as the win over Sri Lanka was followed by drawn series’ with Pakistan and Bangladesh before the ill-fated tour of India that saw his side secure an impressive draw in the opening Test before losing the four remaining matches.
Cook 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,confirmed that steps are already being taken to appoint his successor, and he was quick to pay tribute to his former opening partner, having seen Cook succeed him as captain in 2012.
Strauss 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.
“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 22nd February.”