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County Championship: More points for drawn games, specifics of competition format confirmed

Increase in number of points for a draw following comments from Joe Root this month

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Essex were last season's champions  •  Getty Images

Essex were last season's champions  •  Getty Images

The number of points on offer for a draw in the County Championship has been increased from five to eight, after England's Test captain Joe Root called for changes in the competition's regulations to incentivise teams to make games last longer.
In the 2019 edition of the County Championship, teams were awarded 16 points for a win, five points for a draw, and up to eight bonus points for runs scored and wickets taken in the first 110 overs of their first innings.
In last summer's Bob Willis Trophy, the number of points for a draw was increased to eight "to help mitigate against the impact of weather in a shortened competition", according to the ECB, and that change has been extended into the 2021 season, with the Championship due to be played in a revamped conference-style system.
Following England's 3-1 series defeat in India, Root had called for draws to be made "more appealing" in order to help batsmen and bowlers develop the skills required in Test cricket.
"They need to find ways of making games last four days, giving spinners the opportunity to bowl and learning to bowl at different stages of the game," Root said. "They need to learn to hold the game in the first innings if it's not spinning and things are not in your favour so they can give the seamers some respite. Then they need to be able to attack and to really deal with that pressure of trying to bowl a side out.
"It's not just spin, it's seam as well, and the batting group. For example, you want guys to come into this environment of Test cricket and have that knowledge of what it's like to go out in the second innings and know the opposition have 450 on the board. They need to be able to ignore that scoreboard pressure, put it to the back of their mind and get a score, and go beyond another team's score to make sure you're massively in the game when it comes to the second innings.
"It's the same with the seamers: you want them to have a range of skills that can exploit flat wickets. Can they change their angles round? Can they go up and down the gears in terms of pace? Have they got a five-over spell in terms of short-pitched bowling? They're all the things that will improve the game and Test cricket for England in the long run if the games go longer."
The playing conditions for the 2021 Championship were published by the ECB this week. The second new ball will be taken after 80 overs, having been pushed back to 90 in last season's Bob Willis Trophy, while the ban on saliva being used on the ball and the introduction of Covid-19 replacements have both been retained.
The specifics of the divisional structure have also been confirmed. Each team will play the five teams in their group home and away in the group stage, with the top two in each group qualifying for the top division in the second phase, the third and fourth-placed teams qualifying for the second division, and the fifth and sixth-placed sides going into the bottom division.
Teams will carry the points accrued against the other team that qualifies from their initial group forward into the divisional stage, rather than playing them for a third time in the season, and will play four matches each in the divisional stage. The winner of the top division will be awarded the County Championship, while the top two teams in the top division will qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy final.
The final will be staged over five days at Lord's from September 27. In the event of a drawn final, the side with a first-innings lead will be awarded the Bob Willis Trophy.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98