The Bob Willis Trophy is a special one-off red-ball competition that is separate to the County Championship and will be played this summer only following the delay to the men’s domestic season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament, which will feature all 18 First-Class Counties in three regionalised groups, will herald the start of the domestic season and will culminate in a five-day final.
County members and fans will be able to watch the new red-ball tournament via live streaming on First-Class County websites while highlights of each day’s play are also set to be available.
Here are some common questions about the Bob Willis Trophy to ensure you are across all the key details:
Which teams will contest the final?
Somerset and Essex will face each other in the final at the end of the month - a repeat of the title decider in the 2019 County Championship in which Essex came out on top at Taunton.
Somerset topped the Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, winning four matches and drawing the other in a very impressive run to the final that saw them pick up a competition-leading 97 points.
Essex finished first in the South Group having also won four matches and drawn a rain-affected tie against Hampshire and finishing with 90 points.
The two sides progressed to the final as the group winners with the most points. Yorkshire won the North Group with 87 points.
Where and when will the final be played?
The Bob Willis Trophy final will be played at Lord's between 23-27 September.
How can I watch the final?
As it stands, the final will be played behind closed doors, so no fans will be permitted to watch the action at Lord's.
The full match will be streamed live on the ECB website, with a highlights package available at the end of each day's play.
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.
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.
How will Bob Willis be remembered at the final?
The two teams will be playing for the Bob Willis Trophy, which has been based on a design by Bob’s wife Lauren. Lauren is set to present the trophy to the winning team at the conclusion of the final, alongside new ECB Chair Ian Watmore.
The final will also support Prostate Cancer UK across the five days to raise awareness of their work, to raise money for the charity and to encourage men within the vulnerable categories to assess their risk of the disease.
To find out more about prostate cancer or to donate to Prostate Cancer UK, click here.
When did the Bob Willis Trophy start?
All 18 First-Class Counties got their first-class season underway on Saturday 1 August with the start of the Bob Willis Trophy. The final group-stage matches are due to begin on 6 September before a five-day final.
What is the format of the tournament?
The Bob Willis Trophy was played in three regionalised groups, consisting of six teams per group. Each county played five group-stage matches – meaning they met every team in their group once.
The two group winners with the most points have progressed to the final.
Which counties are grouped together?
NORTH GROUP: Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire.
CENTRAL GROUP: Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire.
SOUTH GROUP: Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex.
Where can I watch the highlights of my county?
The ECB website hosts highlights of each day's play from every match in the competition. Visit the Bob Willis Trophy hub to find all the highlights from the group stages.
First-Class Counties have also been hosting highlights of each of their matches on their websites and social media channels, as well as live streaming many of the games .
Will I need to follow new social media channels to keep updated with all the information?
We know that fans are used to following our County Championship channels to get all the information on men’s domestic red-ball cricket and we’re keeping it that way.
The Bob Willis Trophy is a special one-off tournament so while the logos might have changed the same extensive coverage will remain on the same channels.
As a reminder, here’s where you can follow the Bob Willis Trophy:
ECB WEBSITE: https://www.ecb.co.uk/county-championship
Will the Bob Willis Trophy have first-class status?
Yes, although there will be some changes from the County Championship after the ECB, First-Class Counties and Professional Cricketers’ Association have worked closely to build a set of guidelines to help mitigate against injury, especially to fast bowlers.
Those changes include:
- There will be a reduction 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
The loan system will also be altered for this season only to allow counties to loan a player from another county for a minimum of a week.
Why not just play a shortened County Championship?
On 29 June 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. For a full explanation of how the point system works, click here.
Domestic match schedule and ticket update
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has given its approval for the professional men’s county cricket season to begin on 1 August 2020.
All 18 First-Class Counties have agreed to participate in the same competitive red-ball and white-ball competitions during this summer’s shortened men’s season.
Fixtures for the Bob Willis Trophy can be found here.
Fixtures for Vitality Blast are to be announced in early August.
If you are a ticket holder for a domestic match, you do not need to do anything at this stage. Ticket holders for men's domestic matches and FCC members are set to be contacted by venues with the options available to them in line with the fixture announcement for each competition.