Anderson, Flintoff and Collingwood awarded central contracts

Eight players have been awarded central contracts by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in a deal which could net each of them as much as £400,000 over the next year. The days of top cricketers being the poor relations of international sports appear to be long gone.

For five of the eight - Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher, Ashley Giles and Marcus Trescothick - the contracts were just a renewal of the existing situation, but three - James Anderson, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff - receive one for the first time.

Given that the original purpose of central contracts was to try to protect players from the daily grind of county cricket and ensure that they are at their peak when playing for England, it is a little surprising that only two - Flintoff and Anderson - are fast bowlers. The only other bowler on the list is Giles, a selection which owes more to his role as a utility Test and ODI player than any outstanding performances over the last 12 months.

The terms of the contracts mean that the players are entirely outside the control of their counties and are under the fulltime supervision of the ECB.