ECB plans more central contracts

County cricket could lose more of its leading players to the England central contract system after the England and Wales County Cricket Board re-elected Lord MacLaurin for a further two years as chairman.

County cricket could lose more of its leading players to the England central contract system after the England and Wales County Cricket Board re-elected Lord MacLaurin for a further two years as chairman.

MacLaurin favours extending the central contract system which was brought in before England's recent 3-1 defeat of the West Indies.

He said he hoped to see an extension of the contract system to cover more players, although that is sure to upset some of the counties.

Club officials have accepted the system and the financial compensation it ensures for affected teams, but fans have not been so welcoming.

The England bowler Darren Gough even received a poison pen letter from an anonymous Yorkshire fan who said the county should sack him for not being available because of England's insistence he should be rested between internationals.

"The England contracts will certainly continue and increase in time," MacLaurin said.

He wants to see England capable of competing with Australia when the world's top-ranked Test team visit for the Ashes series next summer.

"The management - Duncan Fletcher and his team - and Nasser [Hussain] have done a good job indeed," said MacLaurin. "The West Indies are still a pretty good side and anyone who can beat them 3-1 when they have Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose playing is a very good outfit."

Although his focus remains on the Test side, MacLaurin is aware of the need to give counties as much help as possible. "If the England side gets right, that will help the finances of the game. The county structure is very important to me," he said.

MacLaurin is hopeful England will not be tainted by the match-fixing scandal surrounding the former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje.

"All I can say is that the enquiries that we have made with the police here have so far cleared all our England players."

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