Introducing 2021 County Cricket in a New Format – How Will it Work?


The COVID pandemic has led to some drastic changes in the sports world. Most events can no longer be attended in-person and players need to stay isolated throughout their tournaments. From postponements to cancellations, to winners being decided on the basis of percentages and calculations from previous matches, the cricket world is no longer a stranger to the impact of corona.

Recently, it was announced that County Cricket would be restricted and played in a new format for 2021. These changes have been made keeping coronavirus restrictions in mind, as well as taking into account the financial importance of holding such matches.

Here are some of the elements of the new format for county cricket.

Restructured County Cricket

It has been discussed that while county cricket will take place next year, it is going to be in a conference system. It will also have a Bob Willis Trophy final when the season comes to an end. Additionally, the new format will have three groups of six teams. These teams are going to be seeded based on the results from 2019 and 2020. All teams are scheduled to play 10 matches each at the beginning.

Afterwards, the teams at the first and second positions from all conferences will then move on to Division One. From here, they will all play four matches more. At the end of this, the team which scores the highest will be named the official county champions.

The remaining teams are to play their final four matches in Divisions Two and Three. The season is going to end with a final taking place between the champions and the runners up and will be a five day long event that ends in a reward of the second piece of silverware.

The reason why this addition has been made is to encourage the Division One to stay competitive all the way to the end of the tournament. They are anticipating a sort of race to Lord’s, with the idea that the teams at the top will view the one-off match as an essential win—or their campaigns will be set in a duller light.

While these changes are being made for 2021, there is a high chance that they will be resuming the old form of county cricket for 2022 onwards—a decision that will be made later. The decision will include whether or not they should revert to only two divisions in 2022.

Apart from the anticipated county cricket championship, England is also ready for a trip to South Africa from November 17. This has been made more complicated because of the tensions between the host board and the South African government.

What Else Do You Need to Know About the New County Cricket Championship Format?

The groups for the championship were decided on the basis of seedings, as well as local derbies. The new format also allows for a certain uncertainty and unpredictability.

Because each county gets 10 matches lasting four days, each of their matches becomes ever more important and influential. The conference format allows an increase in opportunities for more counties to see themselves as the potential winner of the trophy.

Previously, the match-ups were decided on the previous year’s relegation or promotion. However, the new format gives rise to the opportunity to take risks and to encounter unexpected outcomes. In previous championships, there has been a high level of micromanaging, however, now, counties must focus more on playing the matches as they come rather than planning extensively—creating a bit of excitement in the championship.

What’s more, allowing the best six teams to play against each other in the newly formed divisions allows an intermingling of all sorts of talent—which might help in preparing the future international cricket team when playing international matches. It also helps reinstate the partnerships and acquaintances that were made in the current year, such as the ones between Somerset v Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire, and Surrey v Middlesex to name a few.

Not everyone is on board with the decision to have more than two divisions, as this deviates from the format that has been followed in the past. Some, like Rod Bransgrove, prefers two divisions, and Gloucestershire sees this as a chance to play among the top teams and finally be rewarded for the hard work and training they have been engaging in.

The other counties in Division One, such as Sussex, are not completely against the decision. They believe that other matches, such as 50 over games and T20s do not have two divisions, so it is not necessary for the four day matches taking place in the County Championships either.

There might be some problems when it comes to having two trophies in the tournament. It makes the matches more complicated, however, it has been done in an effort to bring back a semblance of organization and motivation to the championship after the pandemic has dampened everyone’s spirits. Several series and matches have had to be cancelled or postponed since the onset of the coronavirus, and the ECB has been doing its best to introduce new and revised formats to continue with the season in any way that they can.

Final Words

Because the pandemic has forced the ECB to make these changes to the county championships, everyone must adjust and accept the new and revised rules and format of the game.

However, when the major chunk of uncertainty and instability that has overshadowed the cricket world has passed, it would be preferable for all parties involved if the ECB could come up with a format and structure that sticks around and is applicable for at least several years without needing to be restructured.

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