SOMERSET will contest two red-ball titles next summer, with the County Championship returning in a revised format.

It was announced today (Friday) that a structure has been agreed for the 2021 competition only - to help mitigate against potential coronavirus impact - and the 18 First-Class counties have been placed into seeded groups.

Somerset are the top seeds in Group 2, where they will face Hampshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Leicestershire.

That means another two red-ball clashes with local rivals Gloucestershire, as well as a reunion with all-rounder Jamie Overton, who joins Surrey after eight years at Somerset.

Seedings for the group stage were based on counties' performances in the 2019 County Championship and the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy.

The top two teams in each group will progress to Division 1, with the Division 1 winners to be crowned county champions and awarded the Lord's Taverners Trophy.

The top two teams in Division 1 will also compete for the Bob Willis Trophy in a five-day final at Lord's, just as in 2020, with Essex claiming the Bob Willis title ahead of Somerset this year.

Essex also won the most recent County Championship, in 2019, so they will be defending both titles next summer.

Each county is to play 14 County Championship matches in 2021 - five home and five away during the group stage, and four more in Division 1, Division 2 or Division 3, depending on their position at the end of the group stage.

England & Wales Cricket Board chairman Ian Watmore said: “Since starting in my new role last month one of my key priorities, as a huge supporter of red-ball cricket, has been to collaborate with the First-Class Counties so that we could confirm a structure for next summer’s men’s domestic season.

“I am delighted that the counties have been able to reach this agreement less than three weeks after Essex won the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s.

“The success of that competition provides reassurance that this structure can help safeguard against any impact the global pandemic may have on next season while also ensuring the integrity of the County Championship.

“It must be stressed that this structure has been agreed for next season only, and during 2021 we will review and consult with the counties and other stakeholders to decide the appropriate next steps for the men’s domestic structure in 2022 and beyond.”

Playing conditions for the 2021 County Championship and the 2021 Bob Willis Trophy final remain under discussion and will be announced in due course.

It also remains to be seen whether Somerset's 12-point deduction - after being found guilty of breaching pitch regulations last November - will apply to next year's revised County Championship structure.

2021 County Championship groups

Group 1 - Essex, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Durham

Group 2 - Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Middlesex, Leicestershire

Group 3 - Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Glamorgan, Sussex