County Championship 2021: What is the format? Who’s in which group? Who are the overseas players?

The English County Championship 2021 got underway on April 8 and this year, the 18 first-class team red-ball competition has a new format for the season. The tournament returns after a break in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, a truncated Bob Willis Trophy was held.

This year, it will be a three-group structure with the Bob Willis Trophy Final in September. There will also be an increased number of points for a draw, which is one of the changes implemented for the new season this year.

FORMAT

The three-group structure from last year’s Bob Willis Trophy has been retained but with some tweaks. The Bob Willis Trophy had regional groups to avoid too much travel because of coronavirus but this year, the sides have been separated into three pools of six according to seeds, which have been determined from the 2019 County Championship and 2020 Bob Willis Trophy results.

Derby games have also been accommodated wherever possible to retain the essence of the games and old rivalries. The ‘home and away’ format is also set to return.

Each side will play a total of 10 games in the home and away format in a pool. The top two sides from each group will then advance to Division One while the third and fourth-placed teams will move into Division Two and the fifth and sixth-placed teams going into Division Three.

These teams will then play four more matches. However, these sides will not play the same teams they faced in the group stages. The points accrued then will be carried over.

The side who comes out on top of Division One will be crowned County Champions. They will then play the second-placed side in a five-day final with the winner of the game being declared as the Bob Willis Trophy winners. That game will be played in the last week of September.

OTHER RULE CHANGES

Teams will now earn eight points for a draw instead of five before. The second new ball due has also been decreased to 80 overs like before as opposed to 90 in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy. However, the ban on applying saliva remains and Covid-19 substitutes can still be used.

DATES

April 8 to July 14 – Group stage

August 30 to September 24 – Division stage

September 27 to October 1 – Bob Willis Trophy Final

GROUPS

Group 1: Essex, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire and Durham

Group 2: Leicestershire, Middlesex, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Hampshire and Somerset

Group 3: Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Glamorgan and Sussex

NOTABLE OVERSEAS PLAYERS

Kraigg Brathwaite – Gloucestershire

Alzarri Joseph – Worcestershire

Kemar Roach – Surrey

Hashim Amla – Surrey

Marnus Labuschagne – Glamorgan

Cameron Bancroft – Durham

Billy Stanlake – Derbyshire

Peter Siddle – Essex

Simon Harmer – Essex

Jackson Bird – Lancashire

Mohammad Abbas – Hampshire

Michael Neser – Glamorgan 

Colin Ingram – Glamorgan

Kyle Abbott – Hampshire

Marcus Harris – Leicestershire

Peter Handscomb – Middlesex

Hanuma Vihari – Warwickshire

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