Angus Fraser: Queue to milk England's cash cow

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Michael Vaughan's victorious side may have retained the Wisden Trophy and all but wrapped up their four-Test series against the West Indies but they still have plenty to play for over the the next fortnight.

Michael Vaughan's victorious side may have retained the Wisden Trophy and all but wrapped up their four-Test series against the West Indies but they still have plenty to play for over the the next fortnight. England need only to draw the third Test at Old Trafford which starts tomorrow to seal another series victory over Brian Lara's beleaguered side but several members of Vaughan's team will be hoping to produce something special in the final two Tests to prove to the selectors they are worthy of 12-month central contracts.

Gareth Batty, however, will not get the opportunity to impress over the coming five days as the selectors released him from their 13-man squad yesterday. Old Trafford was under water when England arrived at the ground for practice, and this, along with an indifferent forecast, has led England to believe they require only one spinner - Ashley Giles. Batty returned to Worcester last night for today's Championship game against Northamptonshire.

Batty was not pushing for a central contract but, if involved, he would have been able to claim a share of England's ever-growing pot of prize money.

Winning is a very lucrative pastime for this team. For each home Test victory Vaughan's side receives £51,000 in prize money, and should they win a series of three Tests or more they rake in a further bonus of £180,000. This means that if England were to win their two remaining Tests against the West Indies their prize money and win bonuses for the summer would total £717,000. When this is added to lucrative central contracts - which allow top players to draw a salary of almost £300,000 a year - it is clear to see why competition for these deals is fierce.

England's success over the last six months - they have won eight of their last nine Tests - has put the England and Wales Cricket Board under enormous pressure to increase the number of contracts available but it will be interesting to see whether they agree with the names put forward by the selectors.

This is the third year in which England have awarded 12-month contracts. In the first - 2002/03 - 12 were offered but the financial fall-out of England's refusal to play a World Cup match in Zimbabwe, led to the ECB reducing this to eight in 2003/04. Money is still tight at the ECB but the players should be rewarded for their recent form.

The retirement of Nasser Hussain has created room for one player and it is difficult to see Paul Collingwood being offered a new deal but this still leaves 13 players competing for possibly 10 or 12 contracts.

Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison and Giles can relax and look forward to another year of financial security but the remaining eight will nervously wait for the winter tour party of South Africa to be announced. This squad is normally revealed in early-September.

These contracts, match fees and bonuses make England's players the best paid in the world. There are three levels of contract - £150,000, £125,000 and £100,000 - and players are positioned in bands according to how much they have played and what they have achieved.

On top of this, in England they receive a match fee of £5,500 per Test and £2,750 per one-day international. On tour this increases to £7,700 and £3,300 to take into account warm-up games and the time players spend away from home.

Australia, England's opponents next summer, have a slightly different set-up. At the end of each year they grade the 20 players that are offered central contracts from one to 20. This is done ruthlessly and following his time out of the game with a foot injury Glenn McGrath is now ranked 15th. Shane Warne, after a year out for failing a drugs test, has also slipped down the pecking order and this pair, who have almost 1,000 Test wickets between them, now find themselves earning less than Michael Clarke, an exciting young cricketer who plays in Australia's one-day side but is yet to make his Test debut.

An England player who could lose out if the ECB does not increase the number of contracts is the currently-contracted Mark Butcher. A thigh strain, along with whiplash from a car accident, have prevented him from facing the West Indies and because of this younger players such as Andrew Strauss and Robert Key have been able to push their credentials.

"After playing 42 Test matches on the bounce I would be more than a little bit peeved if I didn't get another contract," said Butcher, after another session with the Surrey physiotherapist. "After our success this summer it would be a bit of a shock if the ECB did not increase the number of contracts"

ENGLAND (Third Test v West Indies, Old Trafford, tomorrow, from): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, R W T Key, G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, G O Jones, A F Giles, G J Batty, S J Harmison, M J Hoggard, S P Jones, J M Anderson.

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