Bob Willis Trophy Fixtures Confirmed
All 18 First-Class Counties will be in action when Bob Willis Trophy starts on 1 August
- A five-day final will decide the Bob Willis Trophy champions
- Women’s 50-over domestic tournament to be played this summer
- Vitality Blast fixtures to be announced next month
- Men’s red-ball trophy set to feature design of Bob Willis painted by his wife Lauren
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has now confirmed this summer’s Bob Willis Trophy fixtures. Somerset and Gloucestershire are placed in the Central Group, along with Glamorgan, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
All 18 First-Class Counties are set to be in action when the red-ball competition begins on Saturday 1 August, with Somerset taking on Glamorgan at the Cooper Associates County Ground first up. Somerset will also face Gloucestershire in Taunton, starting on Saturday August 22.
Somerset are waiting to hear from the ECB Cricket Disciplinary Committee whether a 12-point penalty imposed last September, due to come into force at the start of this summer’s County Championship, will apply for the new competition.
The Bob Willis Trophy will hold first-class status, but is a separate competition from the County Championship, and will comprise three regionalised groups, consisting of six counties per group.
Somerset will play five group-stage matches – one against each county in the group – and the two group winners with the most points set to progress to a five-day final.
Western Storm will also be returning to action, as a special edition women’s domestic 50-over competition will be staged, featuring the eight new teams in the women’s elite domestic structure.
The competition will also be regionalised, into two groups of four teams, with the group winners meeting in a final. The staging of this competition reflects the ECB’s commitment to continue the journey to professionalise the domestic game for women.
Fixtures for the women’s domestic competition are set to be announced alongside confirmation of the full schedule for the Vitality Blast next month. The Vitality Blast will commence on 27 August.
Somerset Director of Cricket Andy Hurry said: “There is enormous excitement about playing competitive cricket again. Some of the teams in our group we last met in four-day cricket back in 2007 when we were in the Second Division of the Championship.
“We would have been playing Gloucestershire anyway this season following their promotion and we are delighted to be welcoming them to Taunton for a match that will create enormous interest.
“That applies to the competition as a whole and we will go all out to win it. People will be talking cricket again once it gets underway and that is fantastic for the game as a whole.”
The domestic competitions will be staged under strict health and safety protocols with the Bob Willis Trophy also set to feature ECB Board-approved changes to playing conditions to help ensure the wellbeing of players, most significantly fast bowlers, following the long lay-off due to COVID-19.
The playing conditions have been put in place following extensive medical research and in collaboration with the First-Class Counties and the Professional Cricketers’ Association, and include:
- A reduction from a minimum of 96 overs to a minimum of 90 overs in a day’s play.
- Each county’s first innings of a match can last no longer than 120 overs
- The follow-on will increase from 150 to 200 runs
- The new ball will be available after 90 overs rather than 80 overs
Performance Cricket Committee Chair, Sir Andrew Strauss, said: “For all fans of the county game, it is fantastic news that domestic cricket will get underway at the start of August.
“It goes without saying that everyone wants to see competitive red and white ball cricket but in these unprecedented times it is crucially important that we recognise that the fitness and wellbeing of players is the top priority after a long lay-off period.
“Following appropriate medical consideration these measures have been put in place for the Bob Willis Trophy to help to protect players from the risk of long-term injury and any impact that could have on their careers.”
Bob Willis’ name will adorn the one-off men’s red-ball tournament after his former England team-mate, and close friend, Sir Ian Botham proposed the idea as a tribute following his death in December last year at the age of 70.
Willis claimed a then record 325 wickets, from 90 Test caps, during an international career which was highlighted by his fierce determination – most significantly against Australia at Emerald Headingley in 1981 – and an endearing persona than won him admirers across the world.
BOB WILLIS TROPHY DETAILS:
The Bob Willis Trophy will hold first-class status and is a separate competition to the County Championship. Changes to playing conditions and guidance is for the Bob Willis Trophy only and will only affect that tournament.
Bob Willis Trophy groups:
NORTH GROUP: Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire.
CENTRAL GROUP: Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire.
SOUTH GROUP: Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex.
The loan system has been relaxed this summer so that FCCs can loan a player from another FCC for a minimum of one week.
During the Bob Willis Trophy points awarded for a draw will be increase from five (in the County Championship) to eight points. All other points scoring will remain the same as in the County Championship. This change in points awarded for a draw is to help mitigate against the impact of weather during a shortened competition.
Why not just play a shortened County Championship?
On June 29 the First-Class Counties agreed to play red-ball and white-ball cricket in this shortened summer and, after the opening 10 rounds of the County Championship were lost due to the pandemic, a truncated red-ball competition was needed.
The 18 First-Class Counties worked closely with ECB to plan a tournament that could be staged within strict health and safety protocols and included minimising travel and need for overnight hotel stays while adhering to Government guidance.
That has resulted in a regionalised competition that will not only ensure age-old rivalries are played out each round but also that all 18 First-Class Counties have a chance to win the competition.
Will the point-scoring system be different from the County Championship?
Yes. The number of points on offer for a draw will be eight an increase from the five points for a draw in the County Championship. This change has been made to help mitigate against the impact of weather in a shortened competition. All other points scoring will be the same as in the County Championship.
Will the winning county be presented with the County Championship trophy or a new trophy?
A new trophy will be presented to the champions. The trophy is set to feature a cuboid design painted by Bob Willis’ wife Lauren, following his death last year, and which captures his iconic bowling action in full flow.
What happens if the final is a draw?
In the event of a drawn final there will be one tie-breaker option. That option is that the county which leads on first innings, as long as there were two fully-completed first innings, would be deemed the winner of the final. In any other circumstance a drawn or tied final will see the trophy shared by the finalists.