The news that Alastair Cook has stepped down brings to an end the reign of England's longest-serving captain. All in all, he led his country in 59 Tests, winning 24 and losing 22. Charles Colvile looks back on his time in charge…
Alastair Cook had been England's heir apparent long before he was given the job.
A former captain of the England Under-19 side, Cook was given temporary charge when Andrew Strauss missed the tour to Bangladesh in early 2010 and submitted the perfect job application by winning the series 2-0 and scoring a hundred in both games.
It was inevitable, then, that when Strauss decided to quit after losing the series to South Africa in 2012, that Cook - already the one-day captain - should take over in the longer format as well.
His first tour in charge was to India where he again led from the front as he stunned MS Dhoni's team by coming from behind to take the series 2-1.
It was a tour that was notable for a whole host of reasons; the bowling of Graeme Swann and Monty Panasar, and the successful rehabilitation of Kevin Pietersen, who had been dropped in the wake of the text-gate saga at the end of the previous summer.
But what really caught the eye was the phenomenal ability of the new captain to keep churning out the runs. He scored 562 runs in the four Tests, including three centuries.
Cook's stock continued to rise in the summer of 2013 when England won the Ashes by a margin of 3-0 - the nail-biting, last-gasp win at Trent Bridge giving a clear demonstration of his ability to keep calm under the most intense pressure.
His hold on the Ashes, though, would prove to be short-lived, as in the winter of 2013/14, Australia and Michael Clarke exacted sweet revenge with a 5-0 drubbing on the back of the whirlwind bowling of Mitchell Johnson.
The defeat signalled the start of the breakup of a side that had great success and that in turn ultimately led to some of Cook's deficiencies as a leader being exposed.
Jonathan Trott had to come home early suffering from mental exhaustion and stress, Swann quit cricket altogether mid-tour, while Pietersen became everyone's favourite fall guy and was dropped from the side, despite being England's leading run-scorer on the trip, with his divisive nature singled out as a key reason for the humiliation.
The loss of Swann was a blow to Cook's captaincy
It was a decision that would lead to a long-running and bitter social media campaign against Cook by Pietersen's supporters, led by Piers Morgan.
But Cook ignored the calls for him to resign and with typical stubbornness insisted he was still the right man for the job and indicated he had no intention to quit.
Back on the cricket field, things did little to improve as the Test summer of 2014 opened with a dramatic series loss to Sri Lanka, followed by defeat to India in the Lord's Test that left England trailing 1-0 with three to play.
Another key lieutenant Matt Prior was forced to retire through injury and Cook, with the runs drying up, now found himself the subject of ever-increasing criticism for what was now perceived as a cautious, unimaginative style of captaincy.
With his back against the wall, the captain managed to turn things around - not with a flurry of hundreds, he was actually in the middle of a two-year hundred drought - but with enough runs which allowed an on-song James Anderson to deliver three wins in a row and an emphatic 3-1 scoreline.
It was the start of a boom or bust cycle.
Bitterly disappointed to be sacked from the one-day captaincy just two months before the start of the 2015 World Cup, Cook found that the side struggled for consistency in performance.
There were noted and celebrated successes; the unexpected Ashes win of 2015 with the Stuart Broad-inspired demolition of the Australia at Trent Bridge the undoubted high, and maybe more impressively, the 2-1 away win in South Africa the following winter.
Cook celebrates after winning back the Ashes with a 3-2 win over Australia in 2015
These were two series which signalled the coming of age of a new generation of younger England players such as Joe Root and Ben Stokes, but which also showed that in Broad and Anderson, Cook had at his disposal two seamers of the highest class who could - on their day - turn games in a trice.
But in amongst these peaks were also troughs as England's form seemed to splutter, leading to disappointing losses such as the one to the West Indies in Bridgetown.
There was also the series defeat to Pakistan in the UAE, followed by a drawn series against the same opponents last summer.
It all gave the impression that England under Cook, despite having some world-class players, seemed to be standing still.
Then came the most recent disappointments: the first-ever loss to Bangladesh followed by the 4-0 defeat at the hands of India which saw them drop to fifth in the world rankings.
Cook's fate as captain was sealed.
The old failings of over-defensive field placings, a succession of baffling team selections allied to some bizarre bowling changes meant the clamour for Cook to go got louder and louder and finally wore him down.
So, as he heads back into the ranks, how will the era of Cook's captaincy be remembered?
From a straight statistical point of view, he will go down as England's longest-serving skipper with a 40 per cent success rate - well below that of two of his immediate predecessors, Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan.
But that of course doesn't tell the whole story. The truth is that in his early years, when the side he inherited from Strauss was still pretty much together, England were a force to be reckoned with.
But after the Ashes of 2013/14 things changed.
The batting unit, with Cook's own form now inconsistent - he only scored seven hundreds in the last four years of his reign although he did become the first Englishman to pass 10,000 runs in Test cricket - became prone to disastrous collapses.
England struggled to find a permanent opening partner for Cook
The failure to find a permanent opening partner for Cook was also a major and ongoing concern.
It was the loss of Swann, though, that was the biggest blow. Without the control, let alone the wickets, that the off-spinner gave him, Cook was badly hampered.
He never seemed to have complete faith in Moeen Ali or latterly Adil Rashid, and it is arguable that the failure to find an experienced replacement for Swann was the main reason why England failed to push on under Cook.
It could also be the reason the latter years of his time in charge will be seen as a period when the side flattered to deceive, had some notable success but was also more than capable of disappointing.