Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo; George Dobell is senior correspondent
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The day before England fly out to Australia for the Ashes tour, the ECB have confirmed the recipients of central contracts for the next 12 months after protracted talks which began during the summer. There is one change among the 11 from the previous batch with Eoin Morgan losing his deal and Joe Root, who plays all three formats for England, included in his place.
The make-up of the current deals will run until 2019 - although individual contracts still last 12 months - and they are understood to be considerably enhanced terms which the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) were pushing hard for throughout the process. They had claimed in February that England players were "substantially underpaid" compared to their counterparts in Australia.
The initial timescale had been to announce the new contracts when the Ashes squad was named last month, but the final negotiations took extra time although there was no suggestion of talks breaking down at any stage. As part of the raft of alterations made to enable players to increase their chances of maximising their earning opportunities, England's home Tests will be pushed back to June from May to allow a longer period for lucrative IPL appearances.
Angus Porter, the PCA chief executive, said: "I am pleased that we have secured a fair and appropriate long term agreement, and have done so via amicable and constructive dialogue."
Morgan's absence is of no surprise. Although he remains integral to both limited-overs formats - and captained England against Australia last month in Alastair Cook's absence - he has drifted well down the pecking order for a Test berth after opting for a full stint at the IPL and has not made a first-class 50 in more than a year.
His potential route back onto the Test side would be at No. 6, a position that no-one has cemented since Paul Collingwood's retirement after the 2010-11 Ashes. That the contracts list only includes five batsman confirms that the final berth in the middle-order remains up for grabs. There are three potential candidates in the Ashes squad with Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes vying for a place in the Brisbane Test.
Root's elevation to a full central contract is a natural progression after a year in which he has rapidly become a fixture in all three formats. This time 12 months ago he had not made his debut for England, but since his first appearance against India in Nagpur - where he scored a vital, composed 73 - he has produced key contributions in 20-over, 50-over and Test cricket even though his elevation to opener in the summer's Ashes proved a challenge for him.
Geoff Miller, the national selector who was presiding over his final selection of contracts before stepping down, said: "Contracts are on-going recognition for those players who have regularly been selected for England and have performed consistently, as well as those players we feel are likely to play an important role for England over the next year.
"Congratulations to Joe Root who is the one addition to the list of players awarded a central contract and this reflects the important role Joe has played for England since making his international debut last year and will I'm sure continue to play across all formats."
The outgoing managing director England Cricket, Hugh Morris, said: "We are delighted to have concluded a six-year deal and to have all contractual issues resolved in advance of what we all hope to be another successful Ashes tour. We thank the PCA, Team England Player Partnership and the ECB Board for reaching this agreement which now allows the players to focus solely on cricket, not just during this tour, but for a considerable period beyond."
Central contracts James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott