Hampshire learn 2022 cricketing structure

By Connor Steel / Photograph from BBC Sport

HAMPSHIRE CRICKET have learnt their long-format first class opponents for the 2022 summer season following an announcement by the English Cricket Board (ECB) on Thursday.

It confirmed that the LV= Insurance County Championship will be returning to two divisions after a vote earlier this week involving all 18 counties.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, teams agreed a 10:8 structure for the two leagues, with 10 sides in division one and eight in division 2; featuring a two up, two down promotion and relegation system. This was scrapped in March 2020 as lockdown restrictions started, with the Bob Willis Trophy formed later that summer and a three-tier division competition earlier this season; which was won by Warwickshire a few weeks ago.

Counties voted on the possibility of playing an extra season using the 2021 three-tier divisions, but this didn’t secure the two-thirds majority to pass according to ECB articles. Therefore the 2022 campaign will return to the traditional two division format with the 10:8 tweak agreed in 2019, which was always the intention to conduct at the earliest opportunity. Each county will be placed into the division they had qualified for had the 2020 County Championship taken place as planned, which will upset those counties who have been relegated despite good form over the last two campaigns.

But results from the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy and 2021 LV= Insurance County Championship ultimately couldn’t be included in the qualification criteria for the 2022 campaign. This was due to there being no arrangement prior between the 18 teams that any results could be used to decide leagues in future. That should have been done when deciding either format, but wasn’t completed due to the emergency status of Covid-19 and the uncertainty caused by lockdown restrictions. The ECB are hoping to retain the Bob Willis Trophy in some form next season to honour legacy, but it is unlikely to feature an end-of-season showpiece due to the sheer volume of cricket already planned.

Each side will play 14 first class games throughout the campaign, running from April to September next year.  It is not yet clear how Division One fixtures will work as teams wouldn’t be able to play each other both home and away, with a split in the table on the cards similar to the Scottish Premier Football League. Matches will last four days per encounters running alongside the Royal London 50 over cup, Vitality Twenty-20 Blast, the Hundred and International encounters throughout a crowded summer.

Hampshire have been placed in Division One for the 2022 campaign and will play against: Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire &Yorkshire. Exact fixture details will be available online when they have been confirmed by the ECB, with this announcement often made in late November once the finer details have been arranged.