England's 25-man performance squad April 26, 2007

Prior and Nixon lead keeper race

Cricinfo staff

Paul Nixon could have the chance to extend his England career © Getty Images
Paul Nixon and Matt Prior appear to be competing for England's wicketkeeping slot after both were named in the 25-man England Performance Squad (EPS) for the 2007 season. All players who hold 12-month ECB contracts are selected alongside 13 non-contracted players, which includes all those who appeared at the World Cup.

Alongside Prior, the Sussex wicketkeeper, the other three non-contracted players on the list are Durham paceman Graham Onions, Middlesex batsman Owais Shah and Sussex allrounder Michael Yardy. Onions and Shah have made impressive starts to the 2007 season, but Yardy is currently out of action for six weeks with a broken finger sustained playing against MCC.

Despite long-term absences from the England team both Marcus Trescothick and Simon Jones have been named. The two players have begun returning to action at the start of the season, Trescothick following the stress-related problems that ended his Ashes tour early and Jones after further knee injuries. Ashley Giles has been omitted due to his hip problems although can be added at a later date.

Peter Moores, the new England coach, will be able to withdraw any of the players in the squad from domestic cricket at his discretion. But the ECB added that they do not expect a significant reduction in the volume of domestic action for those not involved in the internationals.

David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said: "The England Performance Squad enables the England coach, working with his support staff and the National Academy staff, to monitor more closely the development of international players and better prepare them for the demands of the international game.

"Last year the board agreed that the selectors could name up to 30 players in the EPS but at this stage we have decided to name 25 players," he added. "Having five spare places in the squad will give us the flexibility to add players who force their way into the England frame through strong performances in county cricket."

Graveney also made it clear that players from outside the squad can challenge for international honours. "We obviously welcome competition for places in all disciplines and are particularly conscious that the squad is currently light in the area of specialist spin - Ashley Giles has been omitted from the squad at this stage due to his injury but could be added to the squad if he regains match fitness during the season," he said.

"The wicket-keeping position remains a competitive area. Paul Nixon and Matt Prior have been included in the squad but will be aware that they face strong competition from keepers outside of the squad."

England Performance Squad Michael Vaughan*, James Anderson, Ian Bell*, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood*, Alastair Cook*, Jamie Dalrymple, Andrew Flintoff*, Steve Harmison*, Matthew Hoggard*, Simon Jones*, Ed Joyce, Jon Lewis, Sajid Mahmood, Paul Nixon, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar*, Kevin Pietersen*, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Andrew Strauss*, Marcus Trescothick*, Michael Yardy (* = central contract)