The Cricket County Championship will return in 2021 with a temporary new look, with 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 before the men’s first-class season ends with a showpiece five-day Lord’s final to win the Bob Willis Trophy.
Today’s announcement follows discussions between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the First-Class Counties to help restart the County Championship, whilst mitigating against the impact of COVID-19 next summer. The agreed revised structure is for the 2021 men’s first-class season only.
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 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.
The top two counties in each group, at the end of the Group stage, will progress to Division One, with the other counties moving into Divisions Two and Three, where they will each play a further four matches.
The winner of Division One will be crowned the 2021 County Championship winners.
The top two teams in Division One will also earn the right to play in the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s.