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Australia's players endorse pay deal, celebrate unity

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland (L) and Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Alistair Nicholson make an announcement on the Memorandum of Understanding at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne, Australia, August 3, 2017. AAP/Tracey Nearmy/via REUTERS
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland (L) and Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Alistair Nicholson make an announcement on the Memorandum of Understanding at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne, Australia, August 3, 2017. AAP/Tracey Nearmy/via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's top players have voted to endorse the new pay deal, the Australian Cricketers' Association said on Friday as the dust settled on a bruising 10-month dispute that opened up deep fault lines in the country's favourite sport.

Cricket Australia and the players' union announced they had agreed an "in principle" deal on Thursday, finally ending the month-long lockout that threatened a tour of Bangladesh and this year's Ashes series.

The vote by the players was no more than a formality but union boss Alistair Nicholson confirmed it had taken place and been "overwhelmingly" in favour of the heads of agreement that will form the basis of a new five-year pay deal.

"Thanks to the fans for their patience throughout this negotiation," he added on Twitter.

"Players looking forward to getting back to playing cricket."

Reaction to the deal in the Australian media was equally overwhelming in its assessment that the players had "won" the dispute after the retention of the revenue share element of the deal that Cricket Australia had been determined to get rid of.

"Cricket bosses yield to player power," read the headline on the back page of The Australian newspaper, while inside cricket commentator Peter Lalor said the governing body had questions to answer.

"Cricket Australia went to war with its most valuable asset because, it claimed, the revenue-share model was outdated and made administration of its business too difficult," he wrote.

"CA has at best achieved a little tinkering around the edges of revenue share ... as somebody said early this week, that much could have been agreed to over a beer."

The players and the board had underestimated each other, Greg Baum in Melbourne's The Age suggested.

"It is pretty clear that CA thought the players would cave in once they were not being paid," he wrote.

"But it is also clear that the players expected CA to soften in its hard line once commercial realities began to pinch.

"Meantime, trust and respect went by the wayside, and so did an "A" tour to South Africa."

The players, meanwhile, celebrated the solidarity of the 230 or so male and female professionals who went unpaid for a month until the conclusion of the dispute.

"It makes me so proud of this current generation of Australian cricketers who have stood united to preserve what the cricketers of yesteryear fought so hard to attain," former test all-rounder Shane Watson, who is on the ACA executive, wrote on Twitter.

Australia captain Steve Smith, who will now lead the test squad on the tour of Bangladesh later this month, added a conciliatory note.

"I'd like to thank the ACA for negotiating on behalf of the players and I'm excited that we can all start working together again to continue to grow our great game," he wrote on Twitter.

"I look forward to Bangladesh, India and an exciting summer of Ashes cricket."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom)

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