But just how do England go about replacing their all-time record run-scorer and arguably their greatest-ever batsman?
The England selectors face a big decision ahead of three Test matches in Sri Lanka in November – as well as the Ashes on the horizon next summer – while they may also need to fill two opening positions moving forward, with Keaton Jennings short of runs and in a last chance saloon situation heading into the final match with India.
Here, our writers weigh up what England will do:
Stuart Appleby says England will change both opening positions: Even if he does get a score in the last Test, there is a feeling that Keaton Jennings is not the right man for the job moving forward and has failed to grasp his second-coming in Test cricket.
Short of confidence at the crease, it would be a wise move to drop Jennings for the winter and consider both Surrey’s Rory Burns and Kent’s experienced batsman Joe Denly to fill the void. At 28 and 32, respectively, they know their games inside out and at least one of them deserves a chance at Test level – as opposed to treading old ground with the likes of James Vince, Dawid Malan or Mark Stoneman. Denly also has previous ODI and T20 international experience.
The alternative option, and a good one at that, would be to hand Jonny Bairstow an opener’s berth – promoting him from No5 – after his apparent demotion from possession of the wicket-keeping gloves, in favour of Jos Buttler. That would be a statement of intent by the selectors to show to the player how important he is, given his apparent sulk at the Ageas Bowl. He is more than capable of moving up and has batted there before.
Alex Broun says Mark Stoneman should be recalled: I am a firm believer that a lot of England’s problems are self-inflicted – chopping and changing personnel constantly and being too hasty to use the axe. A good example is Mark Stoneman who looked solid and technically sound against Australia late last year but was unceremoniously dumped for Jennings after the first Test against Pakistan in May.
Both 31-year-old Stoneman and 26-year-old Jennings have now played 11 Tests each – so it is the perfect time to compare them – and guess who comes out on top? Stoneman, comfortably. Both men have played 20 innings with Stoneman edging the runs scored – 526 to 453 – and average 27.68 to 22.65.
True Keaton has one century to his name – 112 on debut against India in Mumbai in December 2016 – but Stoneman has five 50s. Jennings has not scored a 50 since Chennai in his second Test. Yes Stoneman has not gone on to reach three figures, his highest score is just 60, but Jennings in current form does not look like reaching 100 either.
To me Stoneman is a much more reliable and consistent opener than the flakey Jennings, so it is time to rotate back to the Durham man for the tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies – and my choice to partner him would be Jonny Bairstow, who would enjoy the greater responsibility now he has been relieved off his keeping duties.
Ajit Vijaykumar says England must persist with Keaton Jennings: England might be tempted to look at more promising options but with a proven performer like Cook on his way out, it would be prudent to have one stable(ish) option at the the top. Jennings is by no means the best opener in Test cricket but he has weathered quite the storm against a potent Indian pace attack and has to decent knocks to show for his effort.
His 42 in the first Test and 36 in the second innings of the fourth had a lot of quality. England were trailing in the second innings in Southampton but Jennings showed a lot more application than Cook, bringing back memories of his debut century in Mumbai. Any opener who scores a ton on debut in India and plays a critical role in the second innings of a series deciding Test deserves a longer run.
At the other end, Surrey’s Burns looks the best among the lot in England. He has been scoring runs season after season at the top of the order and at 28 years of age, should be in peak condition fitness wise and cricketing wise. Both openers should be given five or seven Tests to prove themselves without any questions asked and be allowed to play with freedom. Then, England might get one or maybe two long-term opening options.
Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi and India great Sachin Tendulkar were among the star names who congratulated Alastair Cook after the England batsman announced his retirement from international cricket following the fifth Test against India.
Cook will retire with more than 12,000 Test runs under his belt and already has 32 Test centuries. He is a four-time Ashes winner and led rare Test series wins in India and Australia.
Afridi called Cook a “wonderful player who was a wonderful ambassador of the game” in his tweet while Tendulkar said “Alastair Cook has been one of the finest batsmen to have represented England, and his conduct on-field and off it, has been impeccable.”
In his Instagram post, former England batsman Paul Collingwood hailed the selfless batting of Cook. “It was a pleasure being out in the middle when you scored a lot of your hundreds for England. Thanks for fighting so hard,” Collingwood said in his post.
Gary Lineker also congratulated Cook, calling him “one of the greatest opening batsmen ever to have donned a pair of pads and gloves.”
England may know Alastair Cook is about to play his final Test at The Oval, but little else appears certain about their immediate or longer-term future.
Coach Trevor Bayliss admitted, in the aftermath of the series-sealing 60-run win over Test cricket’s number one team India in Southampton, that he did not know as yet whether captain Joe Root will again choose to drop down from number three to his favoured number four position.
The Yorkshireman did that, unannounced, to relatively successful effect in England’s second innings on day three at the Ageas Bowl – where Moeen Ali was chosen to move up from number seven in his place.
As England seek to close out a resounding 4-1 – rather than scratchy 3-2 – series win to finish their campaign, there are other pressing issues too.
They could do with identifying a successor to the retiring Cook as soon as possible with an autumn Test series in Sri Lanka already looming – and it would be handy too to know whether Jonny Bairstow will again be relieved of the wicketkeeping gloves by Jos Buttler, as he was because of his broken finger in Southampton.
Difficult to believe Root will go back to No.3— John Etheridge (@JohnSunCricket) September 1, 2018
So England need a No.3 for the final Test at the Oval.
Burns? Vince? Moeen again?
And who to leave out? Rashid? Bairstow? Moeen?
Probably Rashid unless pitch looks likely to turn a lot.
Answers to some of those unknowns may be answered when England name their squad on Tuesday for the fifth and final Test. The Bairstow question is potentially vexing.
Relegated, in his own eyes, to the role of specialist batsman only, he could muster only six runs in two innings – including his second golden duck in three attempts, clean-bowled both times.
“He is very keen to keep,” said Bayliss, who clarified even Bairstow realised his finger injury would not allow him to do so on the south coast. “He tried it before the match started, but he admitted it was not right to keep.
“He is one of our better batters, so he was always going to play as a bat if he wasn’t keeping as well – but going forward he wants to keep.”
There were those who perceived an awkward reaction by Bairstow to losing the gloves – one which may yet be more of a concern if England make the arrangement permanent.
“How (he reacts) to that is for Jonny if it happens down the line,” added Bayliss. “That is the challenge for us, and challenge for anyone who gets one of those strings taken away.”
Moeen did not shirk his when asked to bat at number three, and the indications are that the all-rounder may well be asked to do so again soon enough.
“I hope we can find someone who can do a decent job at number three, and (Joe) can bat where he feels most comfortable,” added Bayliss, who believes the adaptable Moeen may fit the bill.
“In the right conditions, I would not put it past him. When Rooty asked him if he was keen to do it, he jumped at it.
“His challenge will be on the faster wickets … (but) we haven’t got any of those for a while.”