County Championship to return in 2021 with new-look group-stage format

Essex will defend two red-ball titles next summer after the first-class counties agreed to a one-off, revised structure for the 2021 men’s season.

The County Championship – postponed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic – will return in 2021 in a new format made up of three groups, listed below.

The top two teams in each group will progress to Division One and the winner of Division One will be crowned county champions and awarded the Lord’s Taverners’ trophy.

The men’s first-class season will then end with a showpiece five-day Lord’s final between the top two teams in Division One to decide the Bob Willis Trophy, which was introduced in 2020 in memory of the former England paceman.

Essex are the defending champions in both competitions – playing conditions for which have yet to be announced – but it has been confirmed that each county will play 14 Championship games.

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2021 County Championship Groups

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

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

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

ECB chair, Ian Watmore, said: “The success of the Bob Willis Trophy 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.”


Seedings for the group stage of the 2021 County Championship have been determined based on performances of the first-class counties during the 2019 County Championship and the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy.

A provision to accommodate derby matches, only where appropriate within the seeding structure, into the groups has also ensured that county members and supporters can look forward to some of county cricket’s oldest rivalries resuming home and away next summer.

Each first-class county has initially been placed into one of three seeded groups of six and will be scheduled to play five home, 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.

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