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Rupert Wyman 7th Jan 2009 - 9:24

Pietersen resigns as captain

Kevin Pietersen has resigned as England cricket captain after a bust-up with coach Peter Moores - who has been sacked.

The pair fell out over the selection or otherwise of former captain Michael Vaughan for the upcoming tour of the West Indies.

Pietersen wanted the Yorkshireman in his squad, with his added experience and tactical nous seen as a bonus, but coach Moores argued to the board of selectors not to include Vaughan as a result of his poor form with the bat. And it was Moores who got his way which infuriated Pietersen, who felt as he had received a lack of backing from the ECB.

A big cloud now hangs over the future of Pietersen in the England team and, despite everything that comes with 'KP', he is still the team's best player and most probably the most important asset.

During his captaincy England have played three Test matches winning one, losing one and drawing one. He was in charge for 11 one-dayers and after a successful start against South Africa faltered somewhat during the tour of India. England won four, lost five with two no results in the 11 matches.

Ahead of this summer's Ashes Series this is probably the last thing England needed but now the ECB have to make a decision on who will replace the South African-born batsman as skipper.

Opener Andrew Strauss is the hot favourite to be the captain for the first Ashes Test at odds of 1/3. The Middlesex batsman previously had a temporary stint at the helm as a stand-in.

Strauss took over from the injured Andrew Flintoff who, himself, was deputising for the injured Vaughan in 2006/07. Strauss won three and drew two in his five Test matches as captain. In one-dayers Strauss was in charge for 13 matches winning just four, losing eight with one no result. He also lost both of the Twenty20 matches he was in charge for.

Strauss will be seen as the safe choice, but will probably be an uninspiring one.

Other contenders for the post include Strauss' fellow opener Alistair Cook (10/1) though he may be deemed too inexperienced for the role, especially with the Ashes coming up this summer.

Ex-stand-in captain Flintoff is available at 6/1 but it is doubtful that he will be trusted by the selectors following the pedalo incident during 2007 World Cup and various other misdemeanours involving alcohol.

The last thing the selectors want is another big character filling the role after the fall-out between captain and coach. Although, following Moores' departure, KP himself is third favourite at 8/1 to be reinstated.

Could Pietersen's predecessor Michael Vaughan have a surprise return as captain just months after an emotional departure from the job? He can be backed at 12/1.

Another contender is Kent captain Rob Key (33/1). Key, although not a fixture in the England set-up, would be appointed solely because of his captaincy experience in county cricket.

Ex-limited overs captain Paul Collingwood is a 50/1 shot to get the job, though his form was questioned last summer and his place is not guaranteed. He was even infamously dropped for the Headingley Test and replaced by Nottinghamshire bowler Darren Pattinson in one of the strangest selection decisions of recent times.

Whoever the ECB choose it will be a key decision and will have a large bearing on the outcome of this summer's Ashes series.

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