Essex win title
Essex were the last side to win the County Championship in a two-division format in 2019

The County Championship is to revert to two divisions again in 2022.

Following two seasons under revised structures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the England and Wales Cricket Board was keen to return to the format agreed by the 18 counties in 2018.

After discussions with the ECB, clubs voted to return to a 10-team Division One and eight-team Division Two.

Two counties will be relegated from Division One and two promoted from Division Two.

The decision comes following an exciting climax to the 2021 County Championship season in which the counties were initially split into three groups.

In the second phase, four teams went into the final round of fixtures in Division One still in with a chance of winning the title, eventually won by Warwickshire, who just pipped Lancashire on the final day.

But one of those four sides, Nottinghamshire, who were relegated in 2019, will start 2022 in the eight-team Division Two.

Lancashire, the 2019 Division Two champions, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire will be in the top flight, as was originally planned before the delayed 2020 campaign was restructured.

Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire celebrated promotion at the end of the 2019 season

Each county will play 14 Championship matches.

The ECB said: “The England and Wales Cricket Board’s role ahead of this week’s vote has been to facilitate discussions between the first-class counties and provide the options available to them.

“The priority of those discussions has been to determine when and how a return to the two-division structure could best be achieved.

“The process to transition to that structure had begun during the 2019 LV= Insurance County Championship. At the end of that season three counties were promoted from Division Two (Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire) while the last-placed Division One county (Nottinghamshire) was relegated.

“A two-division Championship has, however, not taken place since then due to Covid-19. But it has always been the intention of the first-class counties and the ECB to return to the two-division structure at the earliest opportunity.

“After the vote to change the format of men’s first-class cricket in 2020 and 2021 to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19, this week’s vote also considered the option to play one further year of the seeded group structure that was successfully staged this summer.

“Although there was support from counties to use the 2022 season as a way to step back to a two-divisional structure, there was not the two-thirds majority that was required.”

The ECB have not yet said whether or not the Bob Willis Trophy, lifted by Essex in 2020 and won by the Bears in 2021, will continue.

County Championship structure for 2022

Division One:

Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire, Yorkshire.

Division Two:

Durham, Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex, Worcestershire.

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