Bob Willis Trophy: county cricket returns with new rules and no fans | Tanya Aldred

Four-day red-ball cricket returns with one-off tournament named after the much-loved England bowler and pundit

This was going to be the year the Hundred booted the County Championship to the margins of the summer and took over the school holidays with its new 100-ball razzmatazz. That was in the old new world.

The new new world sees four-day cricket lording it over August instead, in the guise of the one-off Bob Willis trophy, named after the much-loved England bowler and acerbic Sky pundit who died last year. The competition, which starts on Saturday, will consist of five rounds of four-day cricket played in three regional groupings – North, Central and South, with each team playing the other teams in their groups once. The two teams with the most points will then play a five-day final in the autumn.

All games will be held behind closed doors, with the 2,500 fans who had been anticipating watching the first two days of matches involving Willis’s old clubs – Surrey, who take on Middlesex under new captain Stephen Eskinazi at the Oval, and Warwickshire, who play Northamptonshire at Edgbaston – thwarted by the government’s announcement on Friday to postpone all pilot schemes.

At Trent Bridge, the young batsman Haseeb Hameed gets his first run-out for Nottinghamshire, where he moved in the winter after a disappointing couple of years at Old Trafford beset by injury and bad form. Notts play Derbyshire, who will not have any home group games as their ground has been sequestered by the visiting Pakistan team and will then be used for women’s internationals.

A new-look Yorkshire, who lost Tim Bresnan (to Warwickshire) and gained Dawid Malan, travel to Chester-le-Street to play Durham under their new captain, Ned Eckersley. Lancashire find themselves in the peculiar position of playing a home game at New Road: with Old Trafford procured by England, Lancashire were uneasy about travelling to Grace Road which was in localised lockdown. As of Thursday night, of course, that lockdown embraces Greater Manchester as well.

Lucky Hampshire, who will play all their home games at beautiful Arundel with the Ageas Bowl under temporary England management, travel to Hove for a match against Sussex, while last year’s county champions Essex play Kent at Chelmsford. Runners-up Somerset open with a game against Glamorgan at Taunton and Gloucestershire, promoted to Division One of the Championship at the end of last season, take on Worcestershire at Bristol.

The ECB has introduced a number of new rules designed to avoid wear and tear on the bowlers who are short of match practice. A first innings can last no longer than 120 overs, there will be no more than 90 overs a day, new ball available after 90 overs rather than 80, and the follow-on will come into play with a deficit of 200 rather than 150 runs. All, though, a small price to play for the joy of running back on to the pitch in competitive cricket.

Contributor

Tanya Aldred

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
County cricket fixtures 2016: team by team guide
All the county championship, T20 and 50 over matches for next year

Guardian sport

02, Dec, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
County Championship 2019: Divisions One and Two team-by-team guide
Somerset and Surrey look best equipped to battle for the title while Division Two features an intriguing race to make the top three promotion places

Ali Martin

03, Apr, 2019 @10:07 AM

Article image
County Championship roundup: Ed Smith sees Surrey’s batsmen find form
Ryan Patel, Ben Foakes and Will Jacks all passed 50 while Gary Ballance and Joe Root were in the runs again for Yorkshire

Tanya Aldred at The Oval

11, Apr, 2019 @7:32 PM

Article image
County Championship 2017: Divisions One and Two team-by-team guide
Surrey’s signings make them a good bet for the title though Middlesex and Somerset should challenge again while Sussex have strengthened enough to gain promotion

Ali Martin

06, Apr, 2017 @10:14 AM

Article image
County Championship 2015 guide: Yorkshire still the side to beat | Ali Martin
Despite the early-season absence of their England absentees, it is hard to see past the reigning champions retaining their crown. But watch out for Derbyshire

Ali Martin

10, Apr, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
County Cricket 2011: Preview

Make your predictions for the season after reading the Guardian's extensive previews of the counties for 2011

David Hopps, Andy Wilson, Barney Ronay, Mike Averis, Paul Rees and Steve Busfield

07, Apr, 2011 @10:39 AM

Article image
County Championship 2017: how has your team fared this season?
Newly promoted Essex won their first title since 1992 as last year’s challengers fell away. How has it been for your team?

Tom Stevens

25, Sep, 2017 @11:35 AM

Article image
County Championship 2016: team-by-team guide | Ali Martin
Yorkshire look the strongest side again, though Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire should pose a threat, while Sussex and Essex could be the teams to catch in Division Two

Ali Martin

07, Apr, 2016 @9:00 AM

Article image
Cricket: The 18 first-class counties are demanding to know where the Standford fallout leaves their funding

The 18 first-class counties will seek clarification from the ECB executive committee of the financial fallout from the fraud charges against the Texan billionaire

Lawrence Booth

18, Feb, 2009 @3:55 PM

County cricket: First class bowling averages

County cricket first class bowling averages

Staff and agencies

28, Sep, 2008 @3:30 PM