2021 County Championship: What To Look For When Competitors Returns After A 2020 Hiatus
Essex added the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy to their 2019 County Championship triumph
|Events: April 8th – October 1st|
|Cover: Live ball-by-ball BBC radio commentary, live text commentary and reports on the BBC Sports website and app with selected games broadcast simultaneously on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra|
The County Championship returns welcome Thursday after being shut down in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With restrictions slowly being lifted in England and Wales, fans can look forward to a full season of domestic cricket again, although it will be a bit different from what we are used to.
BBC Sport is taking a closer look at how the 2021 campaign will work and which players to watch out for.
The 18 prime counties will be split into three groups of six, a move from Division 1 with eight teams and Division 2 with 10 teams when the County Championship was last held in 2019.
Each county will then play 10 four-day group stage games – five home games and five away games – with the finals in mid-July.
The competition will pause for The Hundred and One-Day Cup until August 30, when the top two teams in each group go through a second group stage called Division One and carry over points from the games played against each other.
The six Division One teams will play another four games against those they haven't met. The team at the top of Division One will be crowned the 2021 County Championship winners.
The two best teams in Division One will play the five-day Bob Willis Trophy Final at Lord & # 39; s from September 27th.
The remaining 12 teams that do not go to Division 1 switch to Divisions Two and Three, in which the teams play another four games.
The three groups were sown based on performance over the past two seasons
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.
England players watch
With England not returning to their friendly match until June 2nd, the juxtaposition of the first nine rounds of the County Championship will work in favor of several players.
A number of names will trade in the Indian Premier League, but the Red Ball specialists will have a chance to re-acclimate themselves after a winter tour of the subcontinent.
England captain Joe Root is set to face his younger brother Billy for the first time in a top-tier game when Yorkshire takes on Glamorgan.
According to coach Andrew Gale, Root will definitely play in Yorkshire's first two games and is expected to appear in a few more games before the first Test against New Zealand.
While the England and Wales Cricket Boards have not yet confirmed full availability of centralized contracts, openers Zak Crawley in Kent and Dom Sibley in Warwickshire will also be back in the ranks of the county.
Stuart Broad will aim to shoot at Nottinghamshire in the first half of the season
Rory Burns will also be interested in not only making an impression as the Surrey captain, but getting himself back into the frame after being dropped in India during the series. Ollie Pope will itch the wrinkle for some precious time too.
Dan Lawrence, who currently has no central treaty, has the chance to build on the promise he made in both Sri Lanka and India when he returns to Essex's 'middle order'.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad will no doubt both appear in the opening rounds for Lancashire and Nottinghamshire but expect their workloads to be closely monitored.
There's also a chance for weirdos Jack Leach and Dom Bess to get back into the county action after contrasting winters. Leach will be returning with Somerset for another summer while Bess has moved permanently north to secure more playing time with Yorkshire.
Hoping to grab the selectors' attention
Tom Lammonby (Somerset)
One player who took full advantage of the limited opportunities to score runs in four-day cricket last summer was Somerset's opening batsman Tom Lammonby.
The left-hander made his first-rate debut in the opening round against Glamorgan, scooping 459 runs averaging 51 across his team for the three-century Bob Willis Trophy final.
The last two of them came under great pressure as well as his unbeaten second innings of 107 against Worcestershire provided the win they needed to achieve Lords.
Three weeks later, in the final against Essex, he stepped onto the biggest stage with a phenomenal 116 in the second innings against arguably the toughest bowling attack in the competition.
Even more impressive was that all of this happened at the age of only 20 and he finished the competition as the third highest scorer.
With a full season ahead and possibly a chance for England to keep looking for the next top order option, 2021 could be an even more exciting summer for the Devonian, who also occasionally plays a manageable piece of medium tempo with his left arm.
Jordan Cox (Kent)
Another young opener who made the most of the shortened Red Ball campaign was Kent batsman Jordan Cox.
The 20-year-old right-hander put a lot into the five rounds of the game and helped set a number of new world-class records in Kent when he and Jack Leaning forged a 423-worth partnership against Sussex.
Cox finished the match with an unbeaten 238 but had to suspend action a week later for violating Covid-19 protocols after posing for selfies with young fans after his marathon stint.
The former England U19 international, who can also keep the wicket, signed a new contract in Canterbury in the winter until the end of 2023 and hopes some of the international experience of his teammates Joe Denly and Crawley will rub away on him.
Ollie Robinson (Sussex)
In the opening summer of the international bubbles, a bowler did his part in shadowing the English squad and almost rose to his test debut at one point when his teammate Jofra Archer operated his own Covid-related suspension.
Sussex 'Ollie Robinson is a long way from a new name on the county circuit, but its population has continued to grow over the past few seasons on the south coast, particularly under the watchful eye of former Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie.
Ollie Robinson took 250 top notch wickets with an average of 21.78
Now that another former Sussex sailor in James Kirtley is leading the coaching work at Hove, 27-year-old Robinson hopes to continue using wickets consistently to stay in Chris Silverwood's mind as a quick bowling option.
England have many test matches on the schedule this summer. If the winter policy of bowler rotation continues and injuries occur, Robinson will be safe if he can maintain his own shape and fitness.
Ben Coad (Yorkshire)
Yorkshire's Ben Coad, sticking to the theme of the tall, imposing bowlers with loans at County Championship Bank, is hoping to be back early this season.
Like Robinson, he's a 27-year-old right-winger but may offer a little more off-field and air movement than maybe a jump and a shot at pace.
Useful tools that have been endorsed by 150+ top-notch wickets since its debut in 2017, with an average of just under 20.
His options were limited to just two appearances at the Bob Willis Trophy last summer, but he will likely start this campaign for the White Rose along with other notable sailors, Duanne Olivier and Matthew Fisher.
Anyone else who will watch the opening laps up close will be none other than England captain Joe Root.
James Bracey (Gloucestershire)
Another player who spent an extended period in the English bubble last summer was Gloucestershire wicketkeeper batsman James Bracey.
The 23-year-old left-hander has previous experience with England Lions and his ability to hit long periods of time and wear the gloves could work in his favor when it comes to giving England flexibility in choice.
But after a summer of alternating between hotel quarantine at Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl, Bracey has not made a prime appearance for his county in more than a season.
He will no doubt be interested in making up for lost time after playing a key role in Gloucestershire's promotion to Division 1 in 2019.
This time in a modified format, he was able to compete with some imposing seam attacks from Somerset, Surrey and Hampshire in Gloucestershire's group.
More early runs of the season and he will undoubtedly find international recognition again.
The stars from overseas
Counties can now field two alien players in the county championship instead of one who follows that End of Kolpak registrations after Great Britain left the European Union.
Who should international stars watch out for in 2021?
Cameron Bancroft (Durham)
The Australian opener returns for a second round in the Northeast after a successful stint in 2019.
The 28-year-old Bancroft averaged 726 runs in nine county championship games two years ago.
He will link up with Durham under new captain Scott Borthwick when his commitments to Western Australia end next month.
Kraigg Brathwaite (Gloucestershire)
The West Indies Test captain comes to Bristol in good shape after scoring 126 and 85 goals against Sri Lanka last week.
The 28-year-old has a lot of experience in England, having previously worked in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan.
Brathwaite is available for the first eight rounds, but self-isolation logs on his return from the West Indies mean he is unlikely to be available for Gloucestershire's opening game against Surrey.
Marcus Harris (Leicestershire)
After moving over Bancroft in the pecking order for one of Australia's opening places, Harris comes to Leicestershire with high expectations.
It is a first say in county cricket for the left-hander who has played 10 test matches for his country – the last time against India in January.
Harris, 28, will bond with the Foxes once Victoria's involvement in Sheffield Shield ends.
Hashim Amla (Surrey)
The former South African batsman, signed by Surrey on a two-year Kolpak deal for 2020 and 2021, will now be promoted to the top position as an overseas player.
Hashim Amla had 28 centuries of testing behind him when he retired from international cricket in 2019
Amla's stats are the best the game has ever seen – 55 centuries in Test and ODI cricket, over 17,000 runs in both formats, and a top Test score of 311 that was missed.
Surrey will be hoping to see more of Amla in the prime game than last year when Covid-19 travel restrictions meant he was limited to just one appearance at the Bob Willis Trophy.
Alzarri Joseph (Worcestershire)
The Antiguan Paceman will play six county championship games for the pears from the second round after a period of self-isolation.
Worcestershire will need the 24-year-old to visit Essex in the first round.
Having completed 38 wickets in 16 tests for West Indies, Joseph is a useful lower order batsman and made history in the Indian Premier League in 2019 when he played 6-12 on his Mumbai debut – the best bowling figures in the competition's 14 years of history .
Opening Games – Thursday April 8th
Essex versus Worcestershire
Nottinghamshire versus Durham
Warwickshire versus Derbyshire
Gloucestershire versus Surrey
Leicestershire versus Hampshire
Middlesex versus Somerset
Northamptonshire versus Kent
Sussex versus Lancashire
Yorkshire versus Glamorgan