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Cook, Anderson among England players released for county duty

James Anderson and Alastair Cook will face one another at Chelmsford in April Getty Images

The majority of England's centrally contracted players (who are not otherwise engaged at the IPL) have been made available to play for their counties in the early rounds of the Specsavers County Championship and the Royal London One-Day Cup next month.

The player availability, which was confirmed by the ECB on Friday, means that Essex's return to Division One of the Championship, against Lancashire at Chelmsford on April 7, could provide some intriguing individual match-ups.

In particular, England's former Test captain, Alastair Cook, will face up to his long-term attack leader, James Anderson, in his first first-class outing since relinquishing the captaincy, while Cook's likely opening partner for July's Test series against South Africa, Haseeb Hameed, will be fronting up at the top of Lancashire's batting.

Joe Root, the new Test captain, will sit out Yorkshire's opening Championship fixture against Hampshire at Headingley, as will his Yorkshire team-mate, Jonny Bairstow, who might have been playing in the IPL during the same period had he not gone unsold at the auction. Moeen Ali and Jake Ball will also miss the opening round of matches, for Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire respectively, following their busy winter schedules.

However, those players will be made available for at least one of the opening three rounds of the Championship, before attention returns to white-ball cricket with the impending ODI series against Ireland and South Africa, followed by the Champions Trophy.

Several other players who have featured in England's Test plans in the past 12 months will also be available to their counties in that period, including Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Alex Hales, Steven Finn, Mark Wood, Keaton Jennings, Liam Dawson, James Vince, and Root and Bairstow's Yorkshire team-mates, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and David Willey.

The list, naturally, excludes the eight England players who will be on IPL duty in India, including the allrounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, the one-day captain Eoin Morgan, and the one-day opener, Jason Roy.

All England players who are currently with their counties, however, have been made available for the opening three rounds of matches in the Royal London One-Day Cup, which has been brought forward in the season this year building to a final at Lord's on July 1.