Red-ball Bob Wil­lis Tro­phy kicks off do­mes­tic cam­paign on Aug 1

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Tim Wig­more

The men’s do­mes­tic sea­son will be­gin with a first-class com­pe­ti­tion on Aug 1 which will be called the Bob Wil­lis Tro­phy.

A ma­jor­ity of county chair­men voted yes­ter­day to play a red-ball tour­na­ment this sum­mer af­ter the clubs had pre­vi­ously dis­agreed about whether to take that route or play one-day matches, in ad­di­tion to the lu­cra­tive Twenty20 Blast com­pe­ti­tion.

As The Daily Tele­graph re­vealed in March, the do­mes­tic sea­son will run un­til Oc­to­ber for the first time.

The new fix­ture list will be con­firmed in the com­ing days and will fea­ture a first-class com­pe­ti­tion played in three re­gional groups, with the two best-placed teams meet­ing in the fi­nal at Lord’s.

It will be named af­ter Wil­lis, the for­mer Eng­land fast bowler and com­men­ta­tor, who died last De­cem­ber.

The tour­na­ment will re­place the County Cham­pi­onship, which will not be played this year. Coun­ties be­lieve that it would be un­fair to have pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion and an of­fi­cial cham­pi­onship win­ner in such a trun­cated sea­son.

The T20 Blast – the chief rev­enue-earner for coun­ties – will be­gin on Aug 27, and will be played in the same three re­gional groups. The group win­ners, and best-placed run­ner-up, will then pro­ceed to Fi­nals Day.

Coun­ties are mak­ing the case that cricket is uniquely suited to al­low­ing some crowds in and could act as a test case for spec­ta­tors be­ing rein­tro­duced for live sport. It is hoped that there could be some lim­ited crowds per­mit­ted for some first-class matches next month and then for the T20 Blast cam­paign.

Coun­ties also have plans to im­prove their live-stream­ing of games to en­able fans who can­not at­tend to watch matches on­line.

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