England's decision to hand out six new central contracts demonstrates that, after a year of almost constant change, they have finally settled on their best eleven.
Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, and Jos Buttler were among the players to have been awarded their first central contracts by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after consistently impressing for the Three Lions.
Whilst for those three, the news has been widely anticipated, Chris Jordan, Ben Stokes, and Chris Woakes will be delighted to have also been rewarded for their efforts.
An ECB board met to rubber stamp the contracts which had already been laid out by a panel of selectors last week.
Young stars developing
Even if England’s year has ultimately been a turbulent one, it has also been acknowledged as one of transition which has allowed a number of fledging players to develop.
Selector James Whittaker told The Daily Mail: “We have been hugely encouraged by the rapid development of a host of younger players in the last year.”
Bresnan, Prior, Trott miss out
Meanwhile, there was less positive news for Tim Bresnan, Matt Prior, and Jonathan Trott, all of whom have lost their central contracts.
Despite putting in an impressive shift for Warwickshire in the latter part of the season, Trott has unsurprisingly been cast aside, having not featured for England since the winter Ashes, which he left with a stress-related illness.
Prior, too, was expected to lose his. The wicket-keeper took an indefinite break from England duty this summer, insisting that injuries were preventing him from performing to the best of his ability.
However, Bresnan will be disappointed to have missed out, considering what has overall been a fine season for the seamer. He has played a key role in guiding Yorkshire to the brink of the County Championship title, but that does signify how much time he has spent at county level.
Yet, there is still hope for Bresnan in the future, as in truth, he is the only one to have lost his central contract but still be in and around the England side.
The thinking behind the new contracts is very clear, with Ballance effectively replacing Trott, with Buttler coming in for Prior. Moeen fills the void left by Graeme Swann after the spinner’s retirement last year.
Warwickshire’s Woakes has taken Bresnan’s place, but Middlesex’s Sam Robson evidently still has work to do to cement his place in the camp after a difficult couple of months.
Liam Plunkett was rumoured to be on the verge of earning a central contract, but injuries have hindered his rise through the ranks this summer. That means Steven Finn keeps his contract after overcoming difficulties with his action that saw him dropped.
The set of newly-rewarded central contracts may be bad news for the players’ respective counties, but could indicate that England are finally moving towards a period of stability.
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