Counties to compete for Bob Willis Trophy

Shortened Vitality Blast to begin on August 27; full county cricket fixtures to be announced later this month

Last Updated: 10/07/20 12:02pm

Bob WIllis passed away at the age of 70 in December

Bob WIllis passed away at the age of 70 in December

Bob WIllis passed away at the age of 70 in December

Counties will compete for the Bob Willis Trophy when this summer’s red-ball cricket tournament gets under way in August.

Sir Ian Botham previously suggested any shortened red-ball competition in 2020 should be named after former England seamer and Sky Cricket pundit Willis, who passed away in December at the age of 70.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has now confirmed the competition will be named after Willis, who played at county level for Surrey and Warwickshire.

The domestic campaign, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will also feature a shortened Vitality Blast from August 27, with fixtures to be announced later in July after all 18 counties agreed to play both red and white-ball cricket.

Speaking before the announcement of the Bob Willis Trophy, Lancashire director of cricket Paul Allott – a great friend if Willis – told the ECB Reporters Network: “It would be great and wonderful recognition for Bob, who was a champion of the game in every aspect.

“He may have come across as a bit of a curmudgeon on the TV, and he cultivated that persona quite beautifully, actually. But there was nobody more delighted if England did well or if players performed well.

Bob was a champion of a shortened county season Bob was a champion of a shortened county season

Bob was a champion of a shortened county season

“Bob was always championing a truncated county season with a final involved in it as well. Ironically, it might fit both poignantly and be in the right way he would have wanted. What a great gesture it would be.

“Bob was an attempted reformer of the game – he was part of the Cricket Reform Group in the early 2000s.

“He and I sat on the boundary edge in Nagpur 40 years ago trying to devise a method and a structure for county cricket that would make it more productive both for players and for England.

“That would be streamlining the County Championship and getting one-day cricket in blocks so that you could concentrate on each format. Then, Test matches would have their own slots to concentrate on those.

“It never quite came to fruition. But for Bob to have a tournament named after him would be very fitting.”

A final at Lord’s at the end of September is also on the cards to decide the winner of the red-ball tournament.

Paul Allott says a Lord's final would be a fitting way to determine this year's red-ball champions Paul Allott says a Lord's final would be a fitting way to determine this year's red-ball champions

Paul Allott says a Lord’s final would be a fitting way to determine this year’s red-ball champions

“Lord’s is one of the finest grounds in the world – if not the finest,” said Allott. “The atmosphere is spectacular.

“Conditions are tricky for bowlers with the slope if you haven’t bowled there much before, but in terms of heritage and tradition, atmosphere and drama, it’s very hard to beat.

“Any chance to play there will be gratefully received, and a final there would be a fantastic showpiece.”

ECB managing director of county cricket, Neil Snowball, said: “The enforced break due to COVID-19 has provided a challenging period for the county game during which time the 18 first-class counties have been united with a common goal to get back to our core function of playing cricket.

“The commitment of the chairs and chief-executives of the first-class counties to work together to achieve that ambition has been resolute and we will remain in close discussion as we continue to assess risk factors that need to be mitigated in order to ensure the safety and welfare of their players, coaches and staff.

“We are all delighted that agreement has been reached across the game and we are now in a position to look forward to and prepare for a new men’s domestic season starting on August 1.”

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