Common questions ahead of the return of both the County Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy next summer.
When will the County Championship begin?
The County Championship returns on Thursday 8 April with all 18 First-Class Counties set to be in action during the opening round.
The Championship will be played in a new format, for next season only, following agreement by the First-Class Counties to help mitigate against the possible impact of COVID-19.
What are the formats for the competitions?
Every county will begin the season with the opportunity to win both the County Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy. The County Championship will run in two stages:
Group Stage (April – July)
The 18 First-Class Counties have been split into three seeded groups of six counties. Each county will play the other counties in their group both home and away – a total of 10 matches.
At the end of the group stage, the top two counties in each group will progress to Division One for the second phase of the County Championship.
The other 12 counties will move into Divisions Two and Three. The third and fourth-placed teams will progress to Division Two while the fifth and sixth-placed teams move to Division Three.
The Group Stage will run from April until July. The opening eight rounds of matches will be played in consecutive weeks with set to start on a Thursday and scheduled to end on Sunday. The Round nine and ten matches will be played in July and begin on a Sunday with all the First-Class Counties playing in the final round.
Division Stage (August – September)
The First-Class Counties will play their final four County Championship matches after progressing to their Division.
The Division Stage will begin on Bank Holiday Monday 30 August with the final round of matches to begin on Tuesday 21 September.
How can a team win the County Championship?
The 2021 County Championship title will be decided by the team that finishes top of Division One.
How can counties qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy final?
The top two teams in Division One will play for the Bob Willis Trophy in a five-day final from Monday 27 September.
The playing conditions for the final are to be confirmed and will be announced in due course.
Which counties are in the three County Championship groups?
All three groups have six teams:
Group 1: Essex, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Durham
Group 2: Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Middlesex, Leicestershire
Group 3: Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Glamorgan, Sussex
How were the groups decided?
Seedings for the Group Stage of the 2021 County Championship have been determined based on performances during the 2019 County Championship and the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy.
There has been a provision to accommodate derby matches within the groups, where appropriate with the seeding structure. This is to ensure that county members and supporters can look forward to some of county cricket’s oldest rivalries resuming home and away next summer.
Could a team win both titles?
Yes. Essex will be seeking to defend both titles after winning the 2019 County Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy this summer.
How was this structure decided upon and will it be in place for future years?
The chairs of the First-Class Counties agreed this revised structure via a vote. It will be for next season only with the aim of helping to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Next year a review and consultation is due to be held between the First-Class Counties, the ECB and other stakeholders regarding the men’s domestic structure for 2022 and beyond.
When will the rest of the domestic fixtures be confirmed?
The ECB plans to announce the remainder of the men’s and women’s domestic fixtures in the new year. Next summer promises to be hugely exciting with the launch of The Hundred competition in addition to the official launch of the women’s regional structure’s 50-over and T20 competitions. County fans will also welcome the return of the men’s Royal London Cup while the Vitality Blast’s popularity continues rise with Finals Day at Edgbaston already a sell-out.