Bob Willis Trophy: County cricket returns with new red-ball competition
County cricket is set to commence on August 1, in a customized format. The delay caused by COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a fresh red-ball competition named in honor of former England bowler 'Bob Willis'. Notably, the tournament has introduced a number of changes as compared to the previous editions. Here are further details on the same.
The format of Bob Willis Trophy
Instead of the usual two divisions, the impending Bob Willis Trophy will see 18 Counties splitting into three regionalized groups of six. North: Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire. Central: Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire. South: Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex. Notably, each County will play five four-day matches, facing every team in the group once.
What are the changes?
As per the changes, each County's first innings of a match should not last longer than 120 overs. The bar of follow-on has also been increased from 150 to 200 runs. Meanwhile, the new ball will be available after 90 overs, rather than 80. Also, the Counties could loan a player from another county for a minimum of one week.
Teams to be awarded eight points for a draw
The allotment of points will remain the same as followed in the County Championship. Overall, 16 points will be awarded for a win with a maximum of five batting and three bowling bonus points in the first innings. Points awarded for a draw will increase from five to eight in case the weather stalls play during a shortened competition.
Two group winners will proceed to the final
The first round of fixtures will commence on August 1, while the final round will take place on September 6. Notably, the two group winners with most points after five games will progress to the five-day final.
What will happen if the final gets drawn?
If the final gets drawn, the team with the first-innings lead will be declared the winner (only if both the innings get completed). In any other circumstance such as tie, the trophy will be shared.
Crowd of upto 2,500 allowed in two games
Most games in the upcoming tournament will also be played behind closed doors. However, crowds of up to 2,500 will be permitted to watch the first two days of Surrey-Middlesex and Warwickshire-Northamptonshire at The Oval and Birmingham respectively. The two fixtures will act as the next phase of pilot scheme announced by the UK government for bringing back crowds to sporting events.
Fixtures of opening round (August 1-4)
North: Durham vs Yorkshire, Derbyshire vs Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire vs Lancashire. Central: Gloucestershire vs Worcestershire, Somerset vs Glamorgan, Warwickshire vs Northamptonshire. South: Essex vs Kent, Sussex v Hampshire, Surrey vs Middlesex. There will be a total number of five rounds before the all-important final. Notably, BBC local radio will provide the ball-by-ball commentary of every match in the tournament.