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The County Championship (referred to as the LV= Insurance County Championship for sponsorship reasons) is the domestic
first-class cricket First-class cricket is the highest-standard international or domestic matches in the sport of cricket. A first-class match is one of three or more days' scheduled duration between two sides of eleven players each and is officially adjudged to b ...
competition in England and Wales and is organised by the
England and Wales Cricket Board The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is the national governing body of cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is ...
(ECB). It became an official title in 1890. The competition consists of eighteen clubs named after, and originally representing, historic counties, seventeen from England and one from Wales. The earliest known inter-county match was played in 1709. Until 1889, the concept of an unofficial county championship existed whereby various claims would be made by or on behalf of a particular club as the "Champion County", an archaic term which now has the specific meaning of a claimant for the unofficial title prior to 1890. In contrast, the term "County Champions" applies in common parlance to a team that has won the official title. The most usual means of claiming the unofficial title was by popular or press acclaim. In the majority of cases, the claim or proclamation was retrospective, often by cricket writers using reverse analysis via a study of known results. The unofficial title was not proclaimed in every season up to 1889 because in many cases there were not enough matches or there was simply no clear candidate. Having already been badly hit by the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Kingdom of Great Britain, Great Britain and Kingdom of France, France. In Europe, the conflict ar ...
, county cricket ceased altogether during the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
and there was a period from 1797 to 1824 during which no inter-county matches took place. The concept of the unofficial title has been utilised ''ad hoc'' and relied on sufficient interest being shown. The ''official'' County Championship was constituted in a meeting at
Lord's Lord's Cricket Ground, commonly known as Lord's, is a cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pitch ...
on 10 December 1889 which was called to enable club secretaries to determine the 1890 fixtures. While this was going on, representatives of the eight leading county clubs held a private meeting to discuss the method by which the county championship should in future be decided. The new competition began in the 1890 season and at first involved just the eight leading clubs:
Gloucestershire Gloucestershire ( abbreviated Glos) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chamber ...
,
Kent Kent is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Robert ...
,
Lancashire Lancashire ( , ; abbreviated Lancs.) is a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial co ...
,
Middlesex Middlesex (; abbreviation: Middx) is a Historic counties of England, historic county in South East England, southeast England. Its area is almost entirely within the wider urbanised area of London and mostly within the Ceremonial counties of En ...
,
Nottinghamshire Nottinghamshire (; abbreviated Notts.) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chamb ...
,
Surrey Surrey () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and R ...
,
Sussex Sussex (), from the Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, e ...
and
Yorkshire Yorkshire (; abbreviated Yorks), formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England Northern England, also known as the North of England or simply the North, is the most northern area of England England ...
. Subsequently, the championship has been expanded to 18 clubs by the additions at various times of
Derbyshire Derbyshire (; or ) is a county in the East Midlands of England. It includes much of the Peak District, Peak District National Park, the southern end of the Pennines, Pennine range of hills, and part of the The National Forest (England), Nation ...
, Durham,
Essex Essex () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Ro ...
,
Glamorgan , HQ = Cardiff Cardiff (; cy, Caerdydd ) is the capital city of Wales and a Local government in Wales, county. Officially known as the City and County of Cardiff, it is the United Kingdom's eleventh-largest city and the main ...
,
Hampshire Hampshire (, ; abbreviated to Hants) is a Counties of England, county in South East England on the coast of the English Channel. The county town is Winchester, but the county is named after Southampton. Its two largest cities are Southampton a ...
,
Leicestershire Leicestershire (; postal abbreviation Leics.) is a landlocked county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first publishe ...
,
Northamptonshire Northamptonshire (; abbreviated Northants.), archaically known as the County of Northampton, is a historic county in the East Midlands The East Midlands is one of nine official regions of England at the ITL 1 statistical regions of England ...
,
Somerset ( en, All The People of Somerset) , locator_map = , coordinates = , region = South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the ...
,
Warwickshire Warwickshire (; abbreviated Warks) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ( ...
and Worcestershire.


History


Origin of concept

It is difficult to know when the concept of a county championship originated. While early matches were often between teams named after counties, they were not the club teams the usage would imply today.
Rowland Bowen Major Rowland Francis Bowen (27 February 1916 – 4 September 1978) was a British Army officer and a cricket Cricket is a bat-and-ball gameBat-and-ball may refer to: *Bat-and-ball games Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games) are ...
states in his history that the earliest usage of the term "County Championship" occurred in 1837 re a match between
Kent Kent is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Robert ...
and
Nottingham Cricket Club Nottingham Cricket Club was an English cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pitch with a wicket at ...
which for the purposes of that match was called Nottingham''shire''.
Rowland Bowen Major Rowland Francis Bowen (27 February 1916 – 4 September 1978) was a British Army officer and a cricket Cricket is a bat-and-ball gameBat-and-ball may refer to: *Bat-and-ball games Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games) are ...
, ''Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development'', Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
That may be so re the actual terminology but closer examination of the sources does indicate a much earlier expression of the idea. The earliest known inter-county match was in 1709 between Kent and
Surrey Surrey () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and R ...
but match results are unknown until the 1720s. The first time a source refers to the superiority of one county is in respect of a match between
Edwin Stead Edwin Stead (1701 – 28 August 1735) was a noted patron of English cricket, particularly of Kent county cricket teams, Kent teams in the 1720s. He usually captain (cricket), captained his teams but nothing is known about his ability as a player. ...
's XI from Kent and Sir William Gage's XI from Sussex at
Penshurst Park Penshurst Park Cricket Ground, also known as the Earl of Leicester's Park, is a cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cric ...
in August 1728. Stead's side won by an unknown margin and the source states that "this was the third time this summer that the Kent men have been too expert for those of Sussex".Waghorn, ''Dawn of Cricket'', p. 7. The following year, Gage's team "turned the scales" and defeated Stead's side, prompting a source to remark that "(the scale of victory) for some years past has been generally on the Kentish side". In 1730, a newspaper referred to the "Kentish champions". These statements indicate that inter-county matches had been played for many years previously and that there was keen rivalry with each team seeking ascendancy.


Development of county cricket

Inter-county cricket was popular throughout the 18th century although the best team, such as Kent in the 1740s or
Hampshire Hampshire (, ; abbreviated to Hants) is a Counties of England, county in South East England on the coast of the English Channel. The county town is Winchester, but the county is named after Southampton. Its two largest cities are Southampton a ...
in the days of the
Hambledon Club The Hambledon Club was a social club that is famous for its organisation of 18th century cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a cricket field, field at the centre of which ...
, was usually acknowledged as such by being matched against an "All England" team. There were a number of contemporary allusions to the best county including some in verse, such as one by a Kent supporter celebrating a victory over Hampshire in terms of "(we shall) bring down the pride of the Hambledon Club". Analysis of 18th century matches has identified a number of strong teams who actually or effectively proclaimed their temporal superiority. The most successful county teams were Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. But there was often a crossover between town and county with some strong local clubs tending at times to represent a whole county. Examples are
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...
, which often played against county teams and was in some respects almost a county club in itself;
Slindon Slindon is a mostly rural village A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet (place), hamlet but smaller than a town (although the word is often used to describe both hamlets and smaller towns), with a ...
, which was for a few years in the 1740s effectively representative of Sussex as a county;
Dartford Dartford is the principal town in the Borough of Dartford The Borough of Dartford is a Non-metropolitan district, local government district in the north-west of the county of Kent, England. Its council is based in the town of Dartford. It is ...
, often representative of Kent; and the
Hambledon Club The Hambledon Club was a social club that is famous for its organisation of 18th century cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a cricket field, field at the centre of which ...
, certainly representative of Hampshire and also perhaps of Sussex. Other good county teams in the 18th century were
Berkshire Berkshire ( ; in the 17th century sometimes spelt phonetically as Barkeshire; abbreviated Berks.) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers ...
,
Essex Essex () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Ro ...
and
Middlesex Middlesex (; abbreviation: Middx) is a Historic counties of England, historic county in South East England, southeast England. Its area is almost entirely within the wider urbanised area of London and mostly within the Ceremonial counties of En ...
. Using the same sort of reverse analysis, it is possible to compile a list of the most competitive teams from the recommencement of county cricket in 1825. Rowland Bowen published his ideas about this in the 1960s when he was the editor of the ''Cricket Quarterly'' periodical. He began by stating that Sussex was publicly acknowledged as the "best county" in the 1827 season when they played against All England in the roundarm trial matches, although the team's involvement in these matches had more to do with the fact that Sussex was the prime mover in the " roundarm revolution". Kent, which had a celebrated team at the time, has long been acknowledged as a champion county in most seasons of the 1840s but in other years there is no clear-cut contender.


County clubs

The middle years of the 19th century are the period of county club formation. So, when title "claims" were made on behalf of Sussex in 1826 and 1827, it was for the same loose association based on
Brighton Cricket Club Brighton Cricket Club was based at Brighton, Sussex and was briefly a top-class team, playing seven matches between 1791 and 1814 which have been given first-class cricket status. It is often seen as being representative of Sussex county cricket t ...
that had a successful season in 1792. But claims on behalf of Sussex from 1845 were by the Sussex county club, founded in 1839. A similar situation existed with both Kent and Surrey. Nottinghamshire is the only other claimant before the 1860s, starting in 1852, but all of its claims have been made by the county club which was founded in 1841. As the popularity of organised cricket grew throughout England, more county clubs came into contention and, by the mid-1860s, they included the short-lived
Cambridgeshire Cambridgeshire (abbreviated Cambs.) is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geograp ...
, Hampshire, Lancashire, Middlesex and Yorkshire. At this time and into the 1870s, the press began to advocate some form of league system and various journals and individuals, including W. G. Grace, began publishing their views about who was the champion in a given season. Grace became interested after the Gloucestershire club was founded in 1870, with himself as captain, and laid several claims to the championship during the 1870s. In the 1870s, it became widely accepted that the side with fewest losses should be the champions. Various lists of unofficial champions began to be compiled by the contemporary press and others, but they are not usually in complete agreement.


The unofficial titles

All "titles" claimed before 1864 are ''strictly unofficial'' and are based on (a) contemporary claims made by or on behalf of a particular team and recorded at the time; (b) reverse analysis performed by a writer who was trying to establish the best team in a given season by reference to the known fixtures and results. It must be stressed that the purpose of such lists when published has never been to ascribe any kind of ruling but rather to provoke discussion. No real credibility can be attached to such claims except to acknowledge that a team was especially strong over a number of years: e.g., Kent in the 1720s; London in the 1730s; Hampshire in the 1770s and 1780s; Sussex in the 1820s; Kent in the 1840s; and Surrey in the 1850s. From 1864 to 1889, the county championship title remained unofficial except that the idea was widely promoted by individuals in the contemporary press and that had not happened hitherto apart from occasional points of view. Each journalist tended to have his own ideas about the calculation method and the matches to be included, but there was a certain amount of consensus in the main, generally favouring the team with fewest defeats. The list below gives the champions quoted by the most prominent sources, including W. G. Grace (1864–1889), ''
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack ''Wisden Cricketers' Almanack'', or simply ''Wisden'', colloquially the Bible of Cricket, is a cricket reference book published annually in the United Kingdom. The description "bible of cricket" was first used in the 1930s by Alec Waugh in a ...
'' (1864–1889), '' John Lillywhite's Cricketer's Companion'' (1865–1884), ''
James Lillywhite's Cricketers' Annual Image:RedLillywhite1900.jpg, ''Red Lillywhite'' ''James Lillywhite's Cricketers' Annual'' was a cricket annual edited by C. W. Alcock, Charles W Alcock the secretary of Surrey County Cricket Club between 1872 and 1900. It is generally referred to as ...
'' (1871–1889) and '' Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game'' (1882–1889). * 1864 – Surrey * 1865 – Nottinghamshire * 1866 – Middlesex * 1867 – Yorkshire * 1868 – Nottinghamshire (''Wisden'') & Yorkshire (Grace) * 1869 – Nottinghamshire & Yorkshire (shared by consensus) * 1870 – Yorkshire * 1871 – Nottinghamshire * 1872 – Nottinghamshire * 1873 – Gloucestershire & Nottinghamshire (shared by consensus) * 1874 – Gloucestershire * 1875 – Nottinghamshire * 1876 – Gloucestershire * 1877 – Gloucestershire * 1878 – undecided * 1879 – Lancashire & Nottinghamshire (shared by consensus) * 1880 – Nottinghamshire * 1881 – Lancashire * 1882 – Lancashire & Nottinghamshire (shared by consensus) * 1883 – Nottinghamshire & Yorkshire (shared by consensus) * 1884 – Nottinghamshire * 1885 – Nottinghamshire * 1886 – Nottinghamshire * 1887 – Surrey * 1888 – Surrey * 1889 – Lancashire, Nottinghamshire & Surrey (shared by consensus) The final tally over these 26 seasons was, therefore, Nottinghamshire (8 titles plus 7 shared); Gloucestershire (3/1); Surrey (3/1); Yorkshire (2/3); Lancashire (1/3); Middlesex (1/0).


Qualification rules

In 1873, player qualification rules came into force which required players to choose at the start of each season whether they would play for the county of their birth or their county of residence. Before this, it was quite common for a player to play for both counties during the course of a single season. Three meetings were held, and at the last of these, held at
The Oval The Oval, known for Naming rights#Stadium naming, sponsorship reasons as the Kia Oval, is an international cricket ground in Kennington, in the London Borough of Lambeth, in south London. The Oval has been the home ground of Surrey County Cri ...

The Oval
on 9 June 1873, the following rules were decided on: * "That no cricketer, whether amateur or professional, shall play for more than one county during the same season". * "Every cricketer born in one county and residing in another shall be free to choose at the commencement of each season for which of those counties he will play, and shall, during that season, play for the one county only". * "A cricketer shall be qualified to play for the county in which he is residing and has resided for the previous two years: or a cricketer may elect to play for the county in which his family home is, so long as it remains open to him as an occasional residence". * "That should any question arise as to the residential qualification, the same shall be left to the decision of the Marylebone Cricket Club".


Newspaper 'leagues'

It was in the 1870s that newspapers began to print tables of inter-county results and then proclaim a champion on the basis of their chosen criteria. In
Arthur Haygarth Arthur Haygarth (4 August 1825 – 1 May 1903) was a noted amateur cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, ...
's ''Scores and Biographies'', reference is often made to "least matches lost" as a means of deciding the champion. This was a method that, in a modified form, permeated through to the official championship when one point was awarded for a win but one was deducted for a defeat. It was discontinued after 1909 as it was deemed to be inherently unsatisfactory and a points per win method replaced it in 1910. As
Derek Birley Sir Derek Birley (31 May 1926 – 14 May 2002) was a distinguished English educationalist and a prize-winning writer on the social history of sport The history of sports extends back to the Ancient world. The physical activity that developed in ...
describes, the papers did not use standard criteria and so there were several seasons in which any title must be considered "shared", as there was no universally recognised winner. With no consistency of approach, the issue inevitably led to argument, counter-arguments and confusion until the matter was taken in hand at the meeting of club secretaries in December 1889 where the official championship was constituted.
Derek Birley Sir Derek Birley (31 May 1926 – 14 May 2002) was a distinguished English educationalist and a prize-winning writer on the social history of sport The history of sports extends back to the Ancient world. The physical activity that developed in ...
, ''A Social History of English Cricket'', Aurum, 1999
In Roy Webber's ''The County Cricket Championship'', he asserts that the championship "is generally accepted as starting in the 1873 season but that is a convenient date decided upon many years later" because 1873 was "the first season in which rules of county qualification were in operation". Webber acknowledges the difficulties posed from 1873 to 1890 by varying programmes with some county clubs playing many more matches than others. For example, in 1874 when Derbyshire was held by some to have won the title, they played only four matches while Yorkshire played twelve. A list of champions for the period would be subjective and in most seasons there would be strongly competing claims. In general, it may be asserted that Gloucestershire with all three Grace brothers were the strongest team in most of the 1870s; Nottinghamshire were in the ascendancy from about 1879 to 1886; and then Surrey from 1887 through the start of the official championship in 1890.
Roy Webber :''For the mayor of the US city of Roanoke, Virginia from 1968 to 1975, see Roy L. Webber.'' Roy Webber (died 14 November 1962 aged 48) was a British cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of el ...
, ''The County Cricket Championship'', Sportsman's Book Club, 1958


First official competition

When the annual meeting of county club secretaries was held at Lord's on 10 December 1889, their purpose was to decide on a fixture programme for the 1890 season. As reported by '' Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game'':
"While the secretaries were engaged in making the fixtures the representatives of the eight leading counties – Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Lancashire, Kent, Middlesex, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, and Sussex – held a private meeting to discuss the method by which the county championship should in future be decided. The meeting was, we understand, not quite unanimous, but a majority were in favour of ignoring drawn games altogether and settling the question of championship by wins and losses. As it was agreed to abide by the views of the majority, this decision was accepted as final.
Subsequently representatives of the following eight minor counties – Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Hampshire, Somersetshire, Staffordshire, Durham and Essex – held a similar meeting in private, and unanimously decided to apply the same rule to minor county cricket".
The first-ever official cricket County Championship match began on 12 May 1890: Yorkshire beat Gloucestershire by eight wickets at Bristol. James Cranston (Gloucestershire) scored the first
century A century is a period of 100 years. Centuries are numbered names of numbers in English#Ordinal numbers, ordinally in English and many other languages. The word ''century'' comes from the Latin ''centum'', meaning ''one hundred''. ''Century'' is s ...
in the competition. The final positions in 1890 were based on number of wins minus the number of losses. Later, a points system was introduced but it has been subject to several variations.


Expansion and points systems

In the 1891 season,
Somerset ( en, All The People of Somerset) , locator_map = , coordinates = , region = South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the ...
competed in the championship and in 1895
Derbyshire Derbyshire (; or ) is a county in the East Midlands of England. It includes much of the Peak District, Peak District National Park, the southern end of the Pennines, Pennine range of hills, and part of the The National Forest (England), Nation ...
,
Essex Essex () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Ro ...
, Hampshire,
Leicestershire Leicestershire (; postal abbreviation Leics.) is a landlocked county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first publishe ...
and
Warwickshire Warwickshire (; abbreviated Warks) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ( ...
all joined; the rules were changed so each side had to play at least 16 matches per season. Until
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, counties played differing numbers of matches, except that all counties were required to play 28 matches in each season from 1929 to 1932 inclusive. When the championship resumed in 1946, teams played 26 matches per season, and the pattern of a fixed number of matches has continued since then, although the number has varied, but again there was an exception. From 1960 to 1962 inclusive, counties could choose whether to play 28 or 32 matches. The original points system was simply wins minus losses but with the expansion in 1895 the points system was modified so that the ratio of points to ''finished games'' (games minus draws) decided the final positions. In 1910 the system was modified again so that the order was based on ratio of matches won to matches played, while from 1911 to 1967 a variety of systems were used that generally relied on points for wins and for first innings leads in games left unfinished. Since 1968, the basis has been wins (increased from 10 points in 1968, to 12 in 1976, to 16 in 1981, then back down to 12 in 1999, up to 14 in 2004 and currently 16) and "bonus points", which are earned for scoring a certain number of runs or taking a certain number of wickets in the first 110 overs of each first innings (the number of overs has changed at various times, but has been 110 since 2010). In an effort to prevent early finishes, points have been awarded for draws since 1996. From 1974 to 1981 there was a limit of 200 overs for the first two innings; the team batting first were restricted to 100 overs and any unused overs were added to those allowed to the team batting second. Of the current 18 sides in County Cricket the remaining four joined at the following dates: * Worcestershire in 1899 (did not play in 1919) *
Northamptonshire Northamptonshire (; abbreviated Northants.), archaically known as the County of Northampton, is a historic county in the East Midlands The East Midlands is one of nine official regions of England at the ITL 1 statistical regions of England ...
in 1905 *
Glamorgan , HQ = Cardiff Cardiff (; cy, Caerdydd ) is the capital city of Wales and a Local government in Wales, county. Officially known as the City and County of Cardiff, it is the United Kingdom's eleventh-largest city and the main ...
in 1921 * Durham in 1992 An invitation in 1921 to
Buckinghamshire Buckinghamshire (), abbreviated Bucks, is a ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are areas of Eng ...
was declined, due to lack of proper playing facilities, and an application by
Devon Devon (, archaically known as Devonshire) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Ch ...
in 1948 to join was rejected. In the 21st century, questions have been raised about the future of the County Championship in the light of the shaky financial structure of many counties, poor attendances and the rise of Twenty20 cricket. Doubts have been raised over many decades concerning the competition's viability, yet it still survives. ''The Changing Face of Cricket'' (1966) by Sir
Learie Constantine Learie Nicholas Constantine, Baron Constantine, (21 September 19011 July 1971) was a West Indies, West Indian cricketer, lawyer and politician who served as Trinidad and Tobago's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and became the UK's first ...

Learie Constantine
and
Denzil Batchelor Denzil Stanley Batchelor (23 February 1906 – 6 September 1969) was a British people, British journalist, writer, poet, playwright, wine expert and a radio and television broadcaster. Life and career Denzil Batchelor was born in Mumbai, Bombay, ...
, made negative predictions about county cricket.


Recent developments

All matches prior to 1988 were scheduled for three days, normally of a nominal six hours each plus intervals, but often with the first two days lengthened by up to an hour and the final day shortened, so that teams with fixtures elsewhere on the following day could travel at sensible hours. The exception to this was the 1919 season, when there was an experiment with two-day matches played over longer hours, up to nine o'clock in the evening in mid-summer. This experiment was not repeated. From 1988 to 1992 some matches were played over four days, with each county playing six four-day and sixteen three-day games. From 1993 onwards, all matches have been scheduled for four days. In 2000, the championship adopted a two-divisional format with promotion and relegation each season. The ECB announced that, from 2017, Division One would contain eight teams and Division Two ten teams, with only one team being promoted from Division Two in 2016. The two-up, two-down arrangement applied for 2017 and 2018, but it was then decided to reverse the sizes of the divisions with effect from 2020, with three teams to be promoted and only one relegated at the end of the 2019 season. From 2016 to 2019 there was no mandatory toss, with the away side having the option to bowl first. If the away side declined to bowl first, the toss still took place. This regulation was introduced on an experimental basis for the 2016 season but retained from 2017 to 2019 after being judged a success in its objectives of making games last longer and encouraging spin bowling. The mandatory toss was reinstated from the 2020 season with the ECB taking the view that increased pitch penalties and changes to the seam of the ball would improve the balance between batting and bowling. The competition was not held in 2020 because of the
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic A pandemic (from , , "all" and , , "local people" the 'crowd') is an of an that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple or worldwide, affecting a substantial numbe ...

COVID-19 pandemic
, being replaced by an abbreviated competition called the
Bob Willis Trophy The 2020 Bob Willis Trophy was a tournament held in the 2020 English cricket season. It was a one-off, first-class cricket tournament that was separate from the County Championship, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdo ...
. In 2021 for one season only, there was a revised Championship format, with the aim of mitigating the impact of COVID-19. This consisted of three seeded groups of six teams playing home and away, after which the final three divisions were allocated, and the teams played the four teams they had not already played in their new division home and away. The top team in the top division at the end of the season were crowned Champions, with the top two teams in the top division going on to play for the Bob Willis Trophy in a five-day final at Lords.


Teams


Competition format


Points system

The county championship works on a points system, the winner being the team with most points in the first division. The points are currently awarded as follows, with a draw increasing to 8 points in 2021: Win: 16 points + bonus points
Tie Tie has two principal meanings: * Tie (draw) A draw or tie occurs in a competitive sport when the results are identical or inconclusive. Ties or draws are possible in some, but not all, sports and games. Such an outcome, sometimes referred to as d ...

Tie
: 8 points + bonus points
Draw Draw, drawing, draws, or drawn may refer to: Common uses * Draw (terrain), a terrain feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between them * Drawing (manufacturing), a process where metal, glass, or plastic or anything e ...

Draw
: 8 points + bonus points
Loss: Bonus points Bonus points are collected for batting and bowling. These points can only be obtained from the first 110 overs of each team's first innings. The bonus points are retained regardless of the outcome of the match. *Batting :200-249 runs: 1 point :250-299 runs: 2 points :300-349 runs: 3 points :350-399 runs: 4 points :400+ runs: 5 points *Bowling :3-5 wickets taken: 1 point :6-8 wickets taken: 2 points :9-10 wickets taken: 3 points


Deductions

Occasionally, a team may have points deducted. Reasons for points deductions are as follows: *Fielding an unregistered player: Points were deducted from Lancashire and Sussex in 1978, and Middlesex in 1981. In each case, the county had played an unregistered player in one match, and all points awarded in that match were deducted. *Poor pitches: Penalties for poor were initially introduced at 25 points (one more than the points for a win with maximum bonus points at the time). The first team to lose points for a poor pitch were Essex in 1989. In later years, smaller penalties were introduced. In 2011, Warwickshire, Hampshire and Kent were all docked 8 points for poor pitches at Edgbaston, the Rose Bowl and Canterbury respectively. In 2019 Somerset were deducted 24 points, of which 12 will be applied in the 2021 competition and 12 were suspended for the 2022 competition, for a poor pitch in their title-deciding game with Essex. *Slow over rates: Deductions for a slow
over rate An over rate is the Arithmetic mean, average number of Over (cricket), overs bowled per hour by the Bowling (cricket), bowling team in cricket. When calculated by Test match officials, allowances are made for Dismissal (cricket), wickets taken (2 mi ...
were introduced in 2001, units of 0.25 points per over short of the target number in any match. The penalty was increased to 0.5 points per over in 2004, and to 1 point per over in 2008. *Ball-tampering: Surrey lost 8 points for ball-tampering in 2005 and were relegated at the end of that season. *Breach of salary cap: Durham were subject to a 2.5-point penalty in the 2013 County Championship, as well as penalties in the limited over competitions, for breach of the salary cap in 2012. Despite this penalty, Durham still won the County Championship in 2013. *Discipline: Leicestershire were fined 16 points in 2015 "in respect of five or more separate occasions when their players committed fixed penalty offences in a 12-month period." Leicestershire were fined 16 points in 2017 after a further five offences in the previous 12 months. *Financial issues: As well as being demoted from Division One, Durham were subject to a 48-point penalty in Division Two in the 2017 County Championship and penalties in the limited over competitions. This was for requiring financial assistance from the ECB.


Tie-breakers

If any sides have equal points, tie-breakers are applied in the following order: most wins, fewest losses, team achieving most points in contests between teams level on points, most wickets taken, most runs scored.


Results


Official county champions

Yorkshire have won the most County Championships with 32 outright titles and one shared. Three current first-class counties (Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Somerset) have never won the official title, although Gloucestershire had claim to three unofficial titles in the 1870s.


Promoted and relegated

There are two divisions, and
promotion and relegation In sports league A sports league is a group of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve p ...
between them. Every county has experienced both divisions at some stage. For the
2020 2020 was heavily defined by the COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic A pandemic (from , , "all" and , , "local people" the 'crowd') is an of an that has spread across a large region, for insta ...
and
2021 2021 is scheduled to host most major events that were originally scheduled for 2020, including the 2020 CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Eurovision Song Contest 2021, Eurovision Song Contest, UEFA Euro 2020, 2020 Summer Olympics, 2021 Copa Améri ...
seasons, there was no promotion or relegation due to the revised formats brought around by the
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic A pandemic (from , , "all" and , , "local people" the 'crowd') is an of an that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple or worldwide, affecting a substantial numbe ...

COVID-19 pandemic
. Durham finished fourth in 2016 but were relegated as a penalty by the ECB over financial issues, replacing Hampshire who finished eighth.


Wooden spoons

Since the expansion of the Championship from 9 counties to 14 in 1895, the
wooden spoon A wooden spoon is a utensil Utensil may refer to: * Kitchen utensil 250px, Various kitchen utensils on a kitchen hook strip. From left: – Pastry blender and potato masher – Spatula and (hidden) serving fork – Skimmer (utensil), Skimm ...
for finishing bottom has been 'won' by the teams shown in the table below. Lancashire, Middlesex, and Surrey have never finished bottom. Leicestershire have shared last place twice, with Hampshire and Somerset.


Records

Records can be found a
Cricket Archive – County Championship Records


Highest team scores

A team has scored 800 or more runs in the County Championship on seven occasions, with
Yorkshire Yorkshire (; abbreviated Yorks), formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England Northern England, also known as the North of England or simply the North, is the most northern area of England England ...
holding the record for the highest score of 887 all out against
Warwickshire Warwickshire (; abbreviated Warks) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ( ...
in 1896.


Lowest team scores


Most runs in an innings


Best bowling in an innings


Sponsors

The County Championship has been sponsored since 2021 by
Liverpool Victoria Liverpool Victoria, trading since May 2007 as LV=, is one of the United Kingdom's largest insurance companies. It offers a range of insurance and retirement products. History Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited was founded in 1843 as ...
and titled the LV= County Championship. The competition has been sponsored since 1977, as follows; *1977–1983
Schweppes Schweppes ( or , ) is a beverage brand that originated in the Republic of Geneva The Canton of Geneva, officially the Republic and Canton of Geneva (french: link=no, République et canton de Genève; frp, Rèpublica et canton de Geneva; ger ...

Schweppes
*1984–1998 Britannic Assurance *1999–2000 AXA ppp Healthcare *2001
Cricinfo ''ESPN''cricinfo (formerly known as Cricinfo or CricInfo) is a sports news website exclusively for the game of cricket. The site features news, articles, live coverage of cricket matches (including liveblogs and scorecards), and ''StatsGuru'' ...
*2002–2005 Frizzell *2006–2015
Liverpool Victoria Liverpool Victoria, trading since May 2007 as LV=, is one of the United Kingdom's largest insurance companies. It offers a range of insurance and retirement products. History Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited was founded in 1843 as ...
(now branded as "LV=") *2016–2019
Specsavers Specsavers Optical Group Ltd is a British multinational optical retail chain A chain store or retail chain is a retail Retail is the sale of goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people inte ...

Specsavers
*2021–present LV= Insurance


See also

*
Pro40 The NatWest Pro40 League was a one-day cricket league for first-class cricket counties in England and Wales. It was inaugurated in 1999, but was essentially the old Sunday League retitled to reflect the fact that large numbers of matches were pla ...
*
Friends Provident Trophy The Friends Provident Trophy was a one-day cricket competition in the United Kingdom. It was one of the four tournaments in which the eighteen first-class cricket, first-class counties competed each season. They were joined by teams from Scottis ...
*
t20 Blast The T20 Blast, currently named the Vitality Blast for sponsorship reasons is a professional Twenty20 cricket competition for County cricket#First-class counties, English and Welsh first-class counties. The competition was established by the E ...
*
Royal London One-Day Cup The Royal London One-Day Cup is a fifty-over limited overs cricket Limited overs cricket, also known as one-day cricket, is a version of the sport of cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams ...
* List of professional sports teams in the United Kingdom


References


Further reading

* Stephen Chalke, ''Summer's Crown: The Story of Cricket's County Championship'', Fairfield Books, Bath, 2015


External links


Official County Championship Website


from ESPNcricinfo {{First-class Cricket Domestic Competitions County Championship, English domestic cricket competitions English cricket in the 19th century English cricket in the 20th century English cricket in the 21st century 1890 establishments in the United Kingdom First-class cricket competitions Recurring sporting events established in 1890 Professional sports leagues in the United Kingdom