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Joe Root rested for opening rounds of County Championship

Crawley, Pope, Burns, Curran made available by ECB for start of county season

Joe Root made two centuries during England's tour of the Caribbean  •  Getty Images

Joe Root made two centuries during England's tour of the Caribbean  •  Getty Images

Joe Root, England's Test captain, will be the notable absentee from the opening weeks of this year's County Championship, after the ECB confirmed that he would not be made available to Yorkshire in the immediate aftermath of England's series loss in the Caribbean.
Root's role as Test captain remains under intense scrutiny after a disappointing winter campaign, in which England lost five and won none of their eight matches against Australia and West Indies, the former series finishing as a 4-0 loss for the second time in consecutive Ashes tours.
Writing on Twitter after England's ten-wicket defeat in Grenada, which has left them facing the prospect of five series losses in a row for the first time in their history, Root had indicated that he would be resting up ahead of this summer's action, which begins with a three-Test series against New Zealand, the reigning World Test Champions, in June.
"After a long winter, it's time to take a break and recharge ahead of the summer, but I believe in the future of this team," Root wrote, while congratulating West Indies on their victory and thanking the England fans who made their way out to Antigua, Barbados and Grenada.
Yorkshire do not play their first match of the season until the Championship's second round, starting April 14, when they travel to Bristol to take on Gloucestershire, but Root's fellow Yorkshire players, Dawid Malan and Dom Bess - neither of whom was selected for the Caribbean tour after featuring in the Ashes squad - have both been made available by the ECB. Jonny Bairstow, the other Yorkshireman in the squad, is with Punjab Kings at the IPL.
Ben Stokes, Root's vice-captain, will also be missing when Durham travel to Glamorgan for the opening round of the Championship on April 7 - as will his county team-mate Mark Wood, who had also been due to be at the IPL, but last week underwent elbow surgery and has been ruled out of action until May at the earliest.
Of the centrally contracted players who were part of the West Indies tour, only two have been cleared to play in next week's opening fixtures. Zak Crawley, who made his second Test century in Antigua, will travel to Chelmsford to play for Kent against Essex, while Ollie Pope - who did not feature in the Tests after a difficult Ashes tour - has been made available for Surrey when they take on Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Two other ECB-contracted players have been cleared to make their county returns for Surrey - Rory Burns, who was dropped after the Ashes tour, and Sam Curran, who will be available as a batter only while he continues his rehabilitation from a stress fracture of the back.
Stuart Broad, a controversial omission from the Caribbean tour, will also sit out the first round of fixtures, with Nottinghamshire due to play Sussex at Hove. "I'm very hopeful that we'll see him for the second or third game and hopefully we'll have a full squad to pick from," Steven Mullaney, Nottinghamshire's club captain, said.
James Anderson's availability will be confirmed in due course, with Lancashire not due to play their first match of the season until April 14, when they travel to Kent.