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Ben Cox rejects Worcestershire contract extension

The wicketkeeper is out of contract at the end of the 2021 season

George Dobell
George Dobell
After a lean group stage, Ben Cox starred on Finals Day last season, Worcestershire v Sussex, T20 Blast, Final, Edgbaston, September 15, 2018

Ben Cox starred in Worcestershire's 2018 Finals Day triumph  •  Getty Images

Ben Cox has turned down a new contract offer from Worcestershire.
Cox, widely regarded as one of the best keepers in the English game, is out of contract at the end of the 2021 season. He was offered a two-year extension on improved terms but has decided to go into the final year of his contract, meaning he will be able to hear offers from other counties.
Aged 28, Cox is at the stage of his career where he may feel time is running out on his ambition to play international cricket. While he has represented England Lions and secured a contract with Trent Rockets in the Hundred, he has limited franchise experience - he recently had to pull out of a stint in the Abu Dhabi T10 after a bout of Covid-19 - and was briefly left out of Worcestershire's County Championship side in favour of Alex Milton.
Cox's relationship with Worcestershire has been long and, to this point, highly successful. Cox made his debut for the club as a 17-year-old schoolboy in 2009. After a tricky start, he has emerged into a top-class keeper who has played a significant role in Worcestershire's white-ball success with his ability to stand up to the stumps to many of the side's seamers. He has previously impressed with his keeping off the spin of Saeed Ajmal, who had a spell as overseas player at the club. Perhaps only Ben Foakes, among contemporary English keepers, is more highly regarded.
While Cox is not quite in the same class with the bat as Foakes, he is still a useful middle-order batsman. He was player of the match in both the semi-final and the final of the T20 Blast when Worcestershire won the competition in 2018 - he made an unbeaten 46 in the final and finished the game off with a six and four off Jofra Archer - and has made four first-class centuries and one more in List A cricket.
It may be, however, that Cox feels he needs to move to gain more appreciation for his skills or that he needs to focus minds at New Road as he negotiates the next phase of his career. A period in the shop window has worked wonders for other players.
ECB regulations prohibit approaches on contracted players until a few weeks into their final season, so there has been no contact with other clubs at this stage. But it is likely that several - including, perhaps, Somerset and Warwickshire - could be interested in a player with Cox's skills. Nottinghamshire could be another attractive destination, with their incumbent wicketkeeper Tom Moores out of contract at the end of the season and yet to sign a new deal.
Worcestershire's management revealed Cox's status at an online forum with county members. They subsequently released minutes of the meeting saying they would be "disappointed" if he left but saying "that is up to the player." They also revealed that former captain, Daryl Mitchell, former England Lions player Ross Whiteley, Riki Wessels, Josh Dell and Milton are out of contract at the end of the 2021 season.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo