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No place for Hick as England name diamond dozen - by Julian Guyer

LONDON, March 29 (AFP) - Graeme Hick was the major casualty as England's cricket chiefs named their 12 centrally contracted players here at Lord's Thursday for this summer's home Test series against Pakistan and Australia.

The 34-year-old Worcestershire batsman, a powerhouse peformer at county level, has never reached the same heights in international cricket and has been dropped 10 times by England.

Another disappointing tour while England were achieving Test series wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka finds the Zimbabwe-born Hick fighting for his England place once again.

However, David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, said there was still a way back into the side for Hick, who has scored 111 first-class centuries at 54.28 but in 65 Tests has made a modest 3383 runs at 31.32 with just six centuries since his debut in 1991.

"Selectors took on board observations that last time we were overloaded with batsmen last year and one of the aims of central contracts was to protect the bowlers," said Graveney.

"But judging by the wickets we played on last year the concept of playing seven batsman has not been discounted.

"You'll see from that list that there are only six batsman on that list and I would never say about anybody that there was a line through their name and there will be a lot of contenders forn that position, young and experienced."

England have now won four Test series in a row - Zimbabwe and the West Indies were defated during the last English summer - and Graveney was particularly pleased with their winter's work.

"It's been a fantastic performance. Even the greatest optimists would not have predicted victories against both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was beyond most people's dreams. Therefore, to have won both series is a great effort."

England have made five changes from last year's inaugural central contract list.

Out go Hick, former Middlesex batsman Mark Ramprkash who starts this season at county champions Surrey, Lancashire leg-spinner Chris Schofield, county teammate and batsman Andrew Flintoff and Kent seamer Dean Headley who had to retire during the close season with a back injury.

In come left-handed Somerset opening bat Marcus Trescothick, Surrey's experienced middle-order man Graham Thorpe, Warwickshire left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, Derbyshire captain Dominic Cork and Yorkshire pace bowler Matthew Hoggard.

England's players have accrued 1 million pounds (1.47million dollars) in bonuses during the last 12 months according to England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) director of cricket operations, John Carr.

As expected the bulk of contracts go to players involved during the third and final Test in Sri Lanka, with Glamorgan off-spinner Robert Croft the only player to miss out.

All-rounder Cork should have been on England's winter tours but had to withdraw through injury and will have to pass fitness tests before his contract is confirmed.

England contracted players:

Nasser Hussain, (Essex, capt), Michael Atherton (Lancashire), Andrew Caddick (Somerset), Dominic Cork (Derbyshire), Ashley Giles (Warwickshire), Darren Gough (Yorkshire), Matthew Hoggard (Yorkshire), Alec Stewart (Surrey. wkt), Graham Thorpe (Surrey), Marcus Trescothick (Somerset), Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire), Craig White (Yorkshire)

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