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Archer keeps England’s central contract but misses out on Lee’s

Jofra Archer has kept his central contract in England despite being sidelined for more than a year, but Test opener Alex Lees faces an uncertain future after failing to land a deal.

After two operations on a problematic right elbow, Archer was set for a domestic comeback at the start of the English summer, but a stress fracture in the Sussex paceman’s lower back meant another long absence.

While his return and a first international appearance are still a long way off since March 2021, Archer is back at bowling and has the continued support of England after being offered another year’s contract with a half-eye on the Ashes next year.

Lees’ position is less clear. A constant presence in the Test team this summer and playing the last three games in the West Indies, a top score of 67 and a 10-cap average of 23.84 leaves plenty of room for doubt.

Captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have both made it a point to support both Lees and first-class partner Zak Crawley when quizzed. But while Crawley retains his full central contract, Lees doesn’t even justify a lower-ranking deal. That doesn’t mean the left-hander won’t be touring Pakistan later this year, but it’s a clear sign that management isn’t making him a permanent fixture just yet.

The England and Wales Cricket Board contract structure is the same as last year, covering Test and limited-over players and taking into account performance over the past 12 months and the likelihood of who will feature next year with 30 players of some sort by deal.

Ben Foakes, who has established himself as the England Test wicketkeeper in recent months, makes his first appearance on the list as one of 18 players to be given a full-time contract, with Liam Livingstone becoming a vital cog in both white-ball sides to see him exalted too.

World Cup captain Eoin Morgan is off the list after retiring from the national team in June, while both Jason Roy and Dawid Malan have been downgraded to incremental contracts.

Roy has been dropped from the squad for the T20 World Championship, which begins later this month, after averaging under 19 with the racquet with a batting average of 104.04, in the shortest format this year, despite his spot on the lower gang is a sign that he is still on their minds.

Malan is first choice in the T20 side but lost his Test spot after Ashes last winter, as did opening batter Rory Burns, who was not presented with an England deal.

Also Chris Jordan, one of three players in England’s T20 World Cup squad, along with Alex Hales and Phil Salt, is out of contract despite being a reliable short-format fast bowler for several years.

Batter Harry Brook, Sear Matthew Potts and left arm duo Reece Topley and David Willey will receive incremental deals, while Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton and Olly Stone will all remain on their Tempo Bowling development deals and will be joined by Brydon Carse, Matthew Fisher and Jamie Overton in an extended pool.

Sir Andrew Strauss’ performance assessment has revealed a fresh look at the core contract system, with ECB Chair Richard Thompson suggesting multi-year contracts could be proposed in the future to stave off the growing threat of the lucrative T20 franchise cycle.

For the time being however the system, first introduced last year, which eliminated the distinction between red and white ball formats with all players now on a single list and an internal salary scale which continues to give greater weight to performance in Test cricket, remains in place.

Rob Key, Managing Director of England Men’s Cricket, said: “I think we’ve rewarded the players who have made a significant impact over the last 12 months and those who we expect to be a part of in the period ahead England’s plans will be.

“International football is evolving and we need to be aware that we need to be at the forefront of player performance across the sport. The goal is to develop world-class players across all three formats as we strive to become the best team in the world.

“I would like to congratulate all the players who have been offered contracts for the coming year. You will all play a vital role in England’s efforts over the next 12 months.”

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