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Salary leak places ECB on back foot

England cricket officials yesterday denied leaking the salary details of their international players. They also insisted, rather angrily, that the figures supposedly revealed in a Sunday newspaper were wrong.

The sums of up to £465,000 a year were apparently disclosed in an attempt to demonstrate that players were already earning large sums and therefore should not be lured by the money on offer in the new Twenty20 Indian Premier League.

There was also the suggestion that the England and Wales Cricket Board might want to show that the sums centrally contracted players earn were extremely generous considering the amount of games they played.

An ECB spokesman said: "The ECB do not consider it in the best interests of anybody to reveal the details of remuneration in what are essentially private employer-employee contracts. A newspaper article suggesting band payment structures contained a number of inaccurate and misleading statements."

The timing of the revelations, wrong as they were, could not have been more embarrassing after the humiliating defeat by the somewhat lesser remunerated New Zealand team.

Stephen Harmison, the out of form fast bowler, was singled out for particular opprobrium for his earnings, said to be more than £230,000 for playing seven Tests. The ECB refused to say how much Harmison was paid in 2007 but said it was less than the quoted figure.

The Professional Cricketers' Association said: "This is hardly appropriate."