ECB Central Contracts: A Review

Eleven England players have been given full central contracts by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), one fewer than in 2014/15.

ODI and T20 captain Eoin Morgan and pace bowler Mark Wood have both been promoted to the elite group of English cricket while Gary Ballance, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes – who were all centrally contracted last year – are among eight players to receive incremental contracts. Ravi Bopara, Adam Lyth and James Tredwell all had incremental deals for 2014/15 but have been left off this year’s list.

A player on a full central contract gets their salary paid not by their county but by an “England retainer” while an incremental player receives a county salary as well as an ECB one, which is smaller than the “retainer” salary a centrally-contracted cricketer would get. This article looks at the merits of each centrally-contracted player.

Moeen Ali (Worcestershire):

The spinner has had to cop some flak over his “part-time” bowling but he did chip in with the odd important wicket during the recent Ashes series. However, it’s Moeen’s batting that has really caught the eye with an average of 36.04 from 16 Tests suggesting he needs to bat higher than number eight in the Test order. On a related note, there have been rumours he will open the batting during the series against Pakistan in the UAE.

James Anderson (Lancashire):

England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker is still capable of producing match-winning spells, including 6-47 in the third Test against Australia at Edgbaston, but at 33, how much longer can he keep doing it? After breaking Ian Botham’s wicket-taking record in the Caribbean earlier this year, Anderson’s international summer was prematurely ended after picking up a side strain during that third Test.

Ian Bell (Warwickshire):

After a poor run of form for most of 2015, Bell bounced back with two half-centuries in the third Ashes Test on his home ground to help England to a convincing eight-wicket victory. This came after his moved up the order to number three in place of Gary Balance, who was dropped after the second Test.  Now fully focused on red-ball cricket after announcing his retirement from ODIs last month, Bell will be hoping his twilight years on the international scene are golden ones.

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire):

Broad has always been a bowler to mix long, barren spells with sudden bursts of magic, but on the morning of Thursday August 6th at Trent Bridge came the greatest burst of them all. Figures of 8-15 from 9.3 overs as Australia crashed to 60 all out will almost certainly go down as one of the greatest moments in 133 years of Ashes cricket. Aside from greater consistency with the ball, Broad seems to be enjoying batting again with 216 runs at 19.6 apiece.

Jos Buttler (Lancashire):

Buttler’s awarding of a full contract will come as a surprise to some after a poor Ashes series with the bat where he made just 122 runs at 15.25, but the wicketkeeper-batsman showed his ability with the willow earlier in the summer after important knocks against New Zealand, including 129 from 77 balls in the first ODI. On top of that his wicket-keeping has improved, which has seen him retain his place in the Test squad for next month’s series against Pakistan.

Alistair Cook (Essex):

The Test captain had something of a comeback in 2015. After scoring his first Test Century in two years against the West Indies, Cook surpassed Graham Gooch as England’s leading run scorer in Tests in the home series against New Zealand as well as being the first Englishman to score 9,000 Test runs. His crowning achievement of the summer was when he led England to Ashes victory the disastrous 5-0 whitewash down under in 2013-14.

Steven Finn (Middlesex):

Another cricketer to come back strongly in 2015. Just a year-and-a-half after being deemed “unselectable” following the tour down under, Finn was given his chance in the third Ashes Test — his first appearance in the longer format for over two years — where he claimed the man-of-the-match award after figures of 8-123 across both innings. The tall 26-year-old still has the potential to become one all England’s all-time great fast bowlers if he stays fit for long enough.

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex):

The one-day captain returned to his best form after a disastrous winter, which included World Cup humiliation down under. After being England’s top-scorer in the New Zealand series, Morgan took a break from all forms of cricket to prepare himself for the Australia series. That hiatus seems to have paid off as once again, he lead the runs table for England which included a run-a-ball 92 to help England to victory in the fourth ODI at Headingley.

Joe Root (Yorkshire):

A rise to number one in the ICC Test Rankings will tell you all you need to know about the year Root has had, but more importantly to England, he produced his best when it was needed the most. This included the 134 against Australia in the first Test after being dropped on nought by Brad Haddin. That was one of two tons he hit in the Ashes, which meant he was awarded the Compton-Miller medal for man of the series. At 24, surely the best is yet to come from the Yorkshireman.

Ben Stokes (Durham):

Controversy always seems to follow this 24-year-old all-rounder wherever he goes, whether it’s “salute-gate” with Marlon Samuels in the West Indies or “wilful-obstruction-gate” with Mitchell Starc at Lord’s. One thing that is clear-cut however is his tendency to produce match-winning performances, particularly his man-of-the-match display at the Home of Cricket against New Zealand or taking 6-36 in the fourth test against Australia to sew up the series.

Mark Wood (Durham):

The Ashington Express II made his Test debut against New Zealand at Lord’s and has not looked back since. After impressing in that series, Wood kept his place for the visit of Australia and enjoyed another successful run, which he capped off by taking the final wicket of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge to bring the Ashes back to England. As long as he stays relatively injury-free, he could enjoy a similar career to the original Ashington Express, Steve Harmison.

The players to receive incremental contracts are: Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Gary Balance (Yorkshire), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) and James Taylor (Nottinghamshire).