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Ben Stokes signs one-year England deal after turning down multiyear contract

Ben Stokes reacts after losing his wicket in the World Cup game against South Africa.

Rob Key has insisted that Ben Stokes’s decision to turn down one of the England & Wales Cricket Board’s inaugural multiyear central contracts does not mean he is not fully committed to representing his country.

England’s Test captain was offered a three-year deal, which would have tied him to the national side for the next Ashes series in Australia in 2025-26 and beyond, but eventually signed on for just one, gambling that he will benefit when he negotiates an extension in 12 months.

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Stokes was one of six players offered three-year deals, of whom only three accepted them. Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer both agreed two‑year contracts instead, leaving Harry Brook, Joe Root and Mark Wood as the only players to commit themselves until 2026.

A further 15 have signed two-year deals and eight players, who with the exception of Stokes can largely be categorised as older, injury-prone or peripheral, have signed for a single year. Seven players – Gus Atkinson, Harry Brook, Brydon Carse, Ben Duckett, Matthew Potts and Josh Tongue and Rehan Ahmed – receive an England deal for the first time, with Ahmed, still just 19, the first teenager to do so.

The deals allow the ECB to control which franchise tournaments contracted players appear in, though Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket, was clear that they intend to do so only when there is a clear scheduling clash. “I don’t want a world where you see your best players going off and playing franchise cricket,” he said. “I want to see them playing for England.”

One factor in Stokes’s decision is the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) which is due to be negotiated between the ECB and the players next year, and which may significantly change the amounts on offer when the next round of contracts are negotiated. The ECB would ordinarily have waited until then to rip up their system but feared that with franchise owners circulating it might have been too late, and in the end every player who was offered a contract signed one.

“I think for the first time in this changing landscape for cricket we start to see what players really think, and we’ve seen that everyone’s committed to English cricket,” Key said. “I’m surprised in a way – I thought more people might not have taken the multiyear element of it. That’s been a credit to the players, that they are prepared to commit to English cricket when for the first time ever they have so many more opportunities.

“Ben, quite rightly, feels when the next MOU starts and the contract cycle changes he’ll be in a stronger position. Other players have gone for security. By no means is it Ben Stokes saying: ‘I don’t want to play for England.’ All he talks about is being completely committed to playing for England. I don’t think it has crossed his mind not playing for England for the next four, five, six years.”

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England contracts

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England Three-Year Central Contracts: Harry Brook (Yorkshire); Joe Root (Yorkshire); Mark Wood (Durham)

England Two-Year Central Contracts: Rehan Ahmed (Leicestershire); Jofra Archer (Sussex); Gus Atkinson (Surrey); Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire); Jos Buttler (Lancashire); Bryson Carse (Durham); Zak Crawley (Kent); Sam Curran (Surrey); Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire); Liam Livingstone (Lancashire); Ollie Pope (Surrey); Matthew Potts (Durham); Adil Rashid (Yorkshire); Josh Tongue (Nottinghamshire from 1 November); Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

England One-Year Central Contracts: Moeen Ali (Warwickshire); James Anderson (Lancashire); Ben Foakes (Surrey); Jack Leach (Somerset); Dawid Malan (Yorkshire); Ollie Robinson (Sussex); Ben Stokes (Durham); Reece Topley (Surrey)

England Development Contracts: Matthew Fisher (Yorkshire); Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire); John Turner (Hampshire)

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When Stokes was asked about his international future last week, when he would already have been aware of his contract situation, he said: “I’ve spoken a lot about the landscape of cricket changing. I think now that’s coming into people’s decisions. I want to play as much cricket as I possibly can for England. That’s where it is for me. I love representing the badge and I want to do that for as long as I possibly can and play as many games as I possibly can. There’s a new MOU coming up and all that sort of stuff … we’ll just see. I want to play as much cricket as I can for England until I can’t any more.”

Every player who appeared in this summer’s Ashes, except the retired Stuart Broad, has signed a contract, as well as every member of the squad currently at the World Cup with the solitary exception of David Willey. “I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t best pleased, as you can understand, being the only one not to get a contract,” Key said of Willey. “And it’s bloody tough, to be honest. We’d love to live in a world where we have a lot of extra cash and you can just give him [something] because he’s out here.”

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