County Championship: Wikis


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County Championship
LVCC logo.png
Administrator England and Wales Cricket Board
Format First-class
First tournament 1890
Tournament format two nine-team divisions
home and away in 4-day matches.
Number of teams 18
Current champion Durham
Most successful Yorkshire (30 titles)
Most runs England Phil Mead (46,268)[1]
Most wickets England Tich Freeman (3,151)[2]
Cricket current event.svg 2009 County Championship

The County Championship is the domestic first class cricket competition in England and Wales. All but one of the teams are named after, and were originally representatives of, historic English counties, the exception being Glamorgan, which is a Welsh county.



The official County Championship was constituted in a meeting at Lord's Cricket Ground of MCC with representatives of the principal county clubs in December 1889. The new competition began in the 1890 season and at first featured Gloucestershire CCC, Kent CCC, Lancashire CCC, Middlesex CCC, Nottinghamshire CCC, Surrey CCC, Sussex CCC and Yorkshire CCC.

Until 1890, the concept of an unofficial championship existed whereby various claims would be made by or on behalf of a particular club as the Champion County, a term which now has the specific meaning of an unofficial claimant for the County Championship title prior to 1890. The term County Champions applies to a team that has won the official title since 1890.

The most usual means of claiming the unofficial title was by popular or press acclaim. There is evidence of such claims being made as early as the 1728 season and the reference found in that season implies that the concept was already in existence then.

In the 1870s, it became widely accepted that the side with fewest losses should be the champions. Various lists of unofficial champions have been compiled by cricket historians using reverse analysis, but they are not usually in complete agreement. An important year was 1873, when new player qualification rules came into force. Before this, it was quite common for a player to play for both the county of his birth and his county of residence during the course of a single season.

For information about the unofficial titles, see : Champion County.

The first official championship in 1890 required the teams to play 14 scheduled matches (i.e., playing each other twice, one game at "home" and one "away"). 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.

In the 1891 season, Somerset CCC competed in the championship and in 1895 Derbyshire CCC, Essex CCC, Hampshire CCC, Leicestershire CCC and Warwickshire CCC all joined; the rules were changed so each side had to play at least 16 matches per season. Until World War II, counties played differing numbers of matches and the points system had to be 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, whilst 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 and up to 14 in 2004) and "bonus points", which are earned for scoring a certain number of runs or taking a certain number of wickets in the first 130 overs of each first innings. In an effort to prevent early finishes, points have been awarded for draws since 1996.

Of the current 18 sides in County Cricket the remaining joined at the following dates:

An invitation in 1921 to Buckinghamshire CCC was declined, due to lack of proper playing facilities, and an application by Devon CCC in 1948 to join was rejected.

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. From 1993 onwards, all matches have been scheduled for four days.

More information about the history of the County Championship can be found here.


Doubts about the future of the competition

By 2008 many voices were heard questioning the future of the County Championship in the light of the shaky financial structure of many counties, poor attendances and the irresistible rise of Twenty20 cricket. Amongst those questioning the whole basis of the competition was Frank Keating of The Guardian who said on 15 April 2008:

"sheepishly stirs another summer of what has tragically become a drawn-out primeval charade, the English County Championship. For decade upon decade it was a cherished adornment of the summer sub-culture, certainly for my generation when heroes were giants and giants were locals. About a quarter of a century ago the championship began fraying and then in no time unravelling. It is now a pointless exercise, unwatched, unwanted, serviced by mostly blinkered, greedy chairman-bullied committees and played by mostly unknown foreign and second-rate mercenaries."

However doubts have been raised over many decades concerning the competition's viability, yet it still survives. The Changing Face of Cricket (1963) by Clarke and Batchelor, made similar predictions about County Cricket.

Despite suggestions that the format could change to 10 games per side in 3 six team regional groups with a knockout phase at the end of the season from 2010 in July 2008 the ECB decided to keep the current format till at least 2013.

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 awarded as follows:

Win: 14 points + bonus points.
Tie: 7 points + bonus points.
Draw: 4 points + bonus points.
Loss: Bonus points.

Bonus points are collected for batting and bowling. These points can only be obtained from the first 130 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


Occasionally, a team may have points deducted. These are normally small deductions, between 0.5 and 1 point. Deductions are most commonly handed out for slow over rates or poor pitches. However, in 2005, Surrey were awarded an 8 point penalty for ball tampering. At the end of the 2005 season, this deduction resulted in their relegation to the second division. Also, in 2007, Glamorgan were deducted 8 points for an unprepared wicket at Swansea.


Official county champions

Yorkshire have won the championship the most, doing so on 30 occasions (plus 1 shared). Three current first class counties hold have no county championship titles, these are Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Somerset. (However, Gloucestershire won some unofficial titles prior to 1890).

Promoted and relegated

There have been two divisions since 2000.

Year County Champions Relegated from 1st Division 2nd Division Winners Promoted from 2nd Division
2000 Surrey Hampshire, Durham, Derbyshire Northamptonshire Essex, Glamorgan
2001 Yorkshire Northamptonshire, Glamorgan, Essex Sussex Hampshire, Warwickshire
2002 Surrey Hampshire, Somerset, Yorkshire Essex Middlesex, Nottinghamshire
2003 Sussex Essex, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire Worcestershire Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire
2004 Warwickshire Worcestershire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire Hampshire, Glamorgan
2005 Nottinghamshire Surrey, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan Lancashire Durham, Yorkshire
2006 Sussex Nottinghamshire, Middlesex Surrey Worcestershire
2007 Sussex Warwickshire, Worcestershire Somerset Nottinghamshire
2008 Durham Kent, Surrey Warwickshire Worcestershire
2009 Durham Sussex, Worcestershire Kent Essex

Wooden spoons

Since the expansion of the Championship from 9 counties to 14 in 1895, the wooden spoon for finishing bottom has been 'won' by:

  • Derbyshire 14
  • Somerset 12
  • Northamptonshire 11
  • Glamorgan 10
  • Nottinghamshire 8
  • Sussex 8
  • Gloucestershire 7
  • Leicestershire 7
  • Worcestershire 6
  • Durham 5
  • Hampshire 5
  • Warwickshire 3
  • Essex 2
  • Kent 2
  • Yorkshire 1

Lancashire, Middlesex and Surrey have never finished bottom. Leicestershire have shared last place twice, with Hampshire and Somerset.


All records can be found at Cricinfo - Records.

Highest team scores

  • 887 Yorkshire v Warwickshire: Edgbaston, Birmingham 1896
  • 863 Lancashire v Surrey: The Foster's Oval, Kennington 1990
  • 850-7d Somerset v Middlesex: Taunton 2007
  • 811 Surrey v Somerset: Kennington Oval 1899
  • 810-4d Warwickshire v Durham: Edgbaston, Birmingham 1994
  • 803-4d Kent v Essex: Old County Ground, Brentwood 1934
  • 801-8d Derbyshire v Somerset: County Ground, Taunton 2007

Lowest team scores

  • 12 Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire: Spa Ground, Gloucester 1907
  • 13 Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire: Trent Bridge, Nottingham 1901
  • 14 Surrey v Essex: County Ground, Chelmsford 1983
  • 15 Hampshire v Warwickshire: Edgbaston, Birmingham 1922 (Hampshire won game)
  • 16 Warwickshire v Kent: Angel Ground, Tonbridge 1913
  • 20 Sussex v Yorkshire: The Circle, Hull 1922
  • 20 Derbyshire v Yorkshire: Bramall Lane, Sheffield 1939

Most runs in an innings

  • 501* BC Lara: Warwicks v Durham, Edgbaston 1994
  • 424 AC MacLaren: Lancashire v Somerset, Taunton 1895
  • 405* GA Hick: Worcestershire v Somerset, Taunton 1988
  • 366 NH Fairbrother: Lancashire v Surrey, The Oval 1993-94
  • 357* R Abel: Surrey v Somerset, The Oval 1899

Best figures in an innings

  • 10-10 H Verity: Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire, Leeds 1932
  • 10-18 G Geary: Leicestershire v Glamorgan, Pontypridd 1929
  • 10-30 C Blythe: Kent v Northamptonshire, Northampton 1907
  • 10-32 H Pickett: Essex v Leicestershire, Leyton 1895
  • 10-35 A Drake: Yorkshire v Somerset, Weston-s-M 1914
  • 10-36 H Verity: Yorkshire v Warwickshire, Leeds 1931
  • 10-40 EG Dennett: Gloucestershire v Essex, Bristol 1906
  • 10-40 W Bestwick: Derbyshire v Glamorgan, Cardiff 1921
  • 10-40 GOB Allen: Middlesex v Lancashire, Lord's 1929


See also


  1. ^ Most runs in County Championship, Cricketarchive
  2. ^ Most wickets in County Championship, Cricketarchive


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