The County Championship will return in 2021 with a temporary new look. The two top red-ball teams also set to battle for the Bob Willis Trophy.
The chairs of the First-Class Counties have agreed via a vote that next summer will welcome the return of the County Championship in a group-stage format. The men’s first-class season ends with a showpiece five-day Lord’s final to win the Bob Willis Trophy.
Essex will seek to defend both titles after the county won the 2019 County Championship and this summer’s Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s.
The announcement has been made today following the discussions between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and First-Class Counties to help restart the County Championship, whilst mitigating against the impact of COVID-19 next summer, ECB has reported.
The agreed revised structure is for the 2021 men’s first-class season only.
The 18 First-Class Counties will play 14 County Championship matches each next summer across Group and Division stages. Each First-Class County has initially been placed into one of three seeded groups of six and will be scheduled to play five home matches and five away matches during the Group stage.
ECB Chair Ian Watmore said: “Since starting in my new role last month one of my key priorities, as a huge supporter of red-ball cricket, has been to collaborate with the First-Class Counties so that we could confirm a structure for next summer’s men’s first-class season.
“I am delighted that the counties have been able to reach that agreement less than three weeks after Essex won the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s. The success of that competition provides reassurance that this structure can help safeguard against any impact the global pandemic may have on next season while also ensuring the integrity of the County Championship.
“It must be stressed that this structure has been agreed for next season only and during 2021 we will review and consult with the counties and other stakeholders to decide the appropriate next steps for the men’s domestic structure in 2022 and beyond.”
Playing conditions for the 2021 County Championship and the 2021 Bob Willis Trophy final remain under discussion and will be announced in due course.