KP not among England contracted 10
Kevin Pietersen's name was not among the list of players the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed had been given a central contract for the 2012-13 season.
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The batsman is currently out of the picture following a dispute over the alleged content of text messages he sent to the members of the South Africa squad during the recent Test series, with his future still no clearer despite the retirement of captain Andrew Strauss.
The ECB, who have issued 10 full-time and four incremental contracts, can add to the list at any time and did add a caveat by saying "discussions are ongoing and remain private" with the 32-year-old but, as things stand, he will not be a contracted player in an Ashes year.
If the ECB press ahead therefore with plans to name a squad next Thursday to undertake the four-Test tour of India, under Alastair Cook, time is short for Pietersen's differences with his employers to be settled.
There were no surprises among the nine players awarded contracts alongside Cook, Eoin Morgan the only one not currently a Test regular after his loss of form in the United Arab Emirates last winter.
Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn, currently battling for the position of England's third seamer behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad, are on the list.
ECB have also awarded four incremental contracts - to Jonny Bairstow, who replaced the dropped Pietersen to impressive effect in last month's Lord's Test against South Africa, Ravi Bopara, limited-overs wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter and Durham seamer Graham Onions.
Friday night's ECB statement, accompanying the announcement of the contracts, made reference to Pietersen - whose return to the fold, after his well-chronicled contract disputes and the "provocative" text messages sent to South Africa players during the Headingley Test, depends on a series of meetings with coach Andy Flower and Cook.
"In respect to Kevin Pietersen, discussions are on-going - and they remain private," the statement read.
National selector Geoff Miller made special mention of Onions, awarded an increment contract after his return from a career-threatening back injury - even though he has played just one Test since his comeback.
"Congratulations to Graham Onions, the one addition to the list of players who have been awarded increment contracts, in recognition of the effort he has put in since his return from injury in 2011 and an indication that we feel he has plenty to offer England in the coming months," said Miller.
"Contracts are on-going recognition for those players who have regularly been selected for England and have performed consistently as well as players who we feel could play an important role for England over the next 12 months."
Broad, in his capacity as Twenty20 captain, earlier made it clear his squad of specialists are happy to face South Africa - in a three-match series starting in Chester-le-Street tomorrow - and prepare for the defence of their ICC world crown, without Pietersen.
Broad has long been plotting England's autumn campaign, here and at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, in the knowledge Pietersen's talents would not be in the equation.
The South Africa-born batsman's reversal, last month, of his initial decision at the end of May to retire from all international limited-overs cricket changed little.
Asked if England can retain the World Twenty20 without Pietersen, he said: "Of course, yeah.
"Our planning started for the 'World Cup' with the Trent Bridge game (against West Indies) earlier in the summer."
Alex Hales, Pietersen's replacement at the top of the order, made a big-hitting 99 as England won that June fixture by seven wickets.
"Kevin had made himself unavailable, so obviously Alex came in and scored the highest score by an England batsman in Twenty20 cricket - and played beautifully and helped us win that game," added Broad.
"We've got eight of the 'World Cup' winners still in this squad; we've got a lot of domestic experience in the likes of Samit Patel and Jos Buttler.
"I think we have got a really exciting squad - so, of course, I think we've got a chance."
England have simply become attuned to preparing without Pietersen.
"We've had a bit of time to get used to it," said Broad.
"It was a bit of a shock when he did retire. But he made that decision, and we obviously planned from then to be without him."
Broad, for one, is happy to leave it to others to work out whether Pietersen plays for his adopted country again.
"It's purely an ECB call at the moment, isn't it?
"I do very much trust their call on it. I don't know all the ins and outs of it, but it's completely in their hands at the moment."
In the more immediate future, he has minor concerns over the fitness of his bowling attack to face South Africa.
Broad himself broke the nail on the index finger of his bowling hand, in practice this morning, but expects to be fit.
Finn was able to take full part in practice, but may not be risked because of his stiff back - and it seems Bresnan has little chance of playing after having a scan on the bowling elbow which required surgery last December and then kept him out of England's Test series defeat against Pakistan in the UAE.
ECB central contracts for 2012/13: James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Matt Prior (Sussex), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire).
Incremental contracts: Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Craig Kieswetter (Somerset), Graham Onions (Durham).