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Stokes given England contract despite mental health break


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Ben Stokes has retained his England central contract despite taking an indefinite break to focus on his mental wellbeing, with cricket chiefs set to give the green light to the Ashes tour at a meeting on Friday. 

Bowlers Jack Leach and Ollie Robinson and batsman Dawid Malan all earned first-time deals.

The distinction between red and white-ball deals has been scrapped, with all players appearing on a single list with an internal pay scale that continues to offer greater weight to performances in Test cricket.

The list of 20 core players is supplemented by four more on incremental terms, while Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton and Olly Stone all keep their pace bowling development contracts.

Dom Sibley, a Test regular since his debut in 2019 who was dropped in August after a run of poor form, has been left off the list entirely.

England's upcoming commitments include the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman starting on October 17 and the Ashes, which start in December.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is meeting later Friday, with expectations that they will rubberstamp plans for the tour to Australia.

All-rounder Stokes, 30, has not played for England since July, when he cut short his rehabilitation after a broken index finger to captain the one-day side at short notice following a coronavirus outbreak.

He has since taken time away from the game to focus on his mental health and his injury, which required a second operation. 

Stokes is not appearing in the T20 World Cup and is unlikely to be back for the Ashes but there are hopes that he will return to the fold in 2022.

Sussex seamer Robinson has 28 wickets in his first five Tests at an average of 19.60 while Malan was recalled to the Test side having already established himself as a mainstay of the T20 side.

Left-arm spinner Leach, who did not play for the Test team during the English season, owes his renewed status as first-choice Test spinner to Moeen Ali's retirement from the format.

"I would like to congratulate all the players offered agreements for the coming year, particularly newcomers Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, and Ollie Robinson," said ECB managing director of men's cricket Ashley Giles.

"Receiving your first central contract is a great moment in any player's career. They will all play a pivotal role in England's fortunes over the next 12 months."

England central contracts: Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Increment contracts: Dom Bess, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone.

Pace bowling development contracts: Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Olly Stone.