Counties to lose contracted players for season finale

Many contracted England players will be unavailable to their counties for the climax of the domestic season following a decision to rest those involved in this winter's tours after 5 September.

Many contracted England players will be unavailable to their counties for the climax of the domestic season following a decision to rest those involved in this winter's tours after 5 September.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, yesterday announced that players selected for both the ICC Trophy one-day international tournament in Kenya and the tour to Pakistan which follows would be rested after that date. Players would, therefore, miss the final two rounds of the County Championship and the finale to the National League season, when both titles and promotion and relegation would be at stake.

Surrey, the Championship First Division leaders, face the prospect of losing both Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe as they attempt to become the first side since Warwickshire in the mid-1990s to retain the title. Their only consolation is that their nearest rivals, Yorkshire and Lancashire, will be similarly depleted in the run-in.

Yorkshire, who face Lancashire in the Roses match at Headingley today, could lose both Darren Gough and Craig White while their batsman, Michael Vaughan, who is yet to make a one-day appearance for England, could also be considered for the Kenya tournament. Lancashire, one place ahead of Yorkshire in second, are unlikely to be as badly affected with only Andrew Flintoff likely to be considered for both aspects of the tour as Michael Atherton now appears to have been discarded from England's one-day plans.

"The England coach has decided that players who are awarded both Test and one-day international contracts for the winter tours will be rested between September 5th and the 26th," explained Andrew Walpole, England's media relations officer.

"This will enable these players to spend time with their families and friends after the demands of the summer season, whom they will not otherwise see until shortly before Christmas."

Players like Atherton, who are only likely to be selected for the Test matches in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, will be available to their counties until the end of the season.

* Two Indian police officers have flown to Britain to search for new evidence in their match-fixing investigation. Delhi police want to interview the London-based Indian bookmaker, Sanjeev Chawla, about the scandal.

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