ECB confirm two-division structure for 2022 County Championship - and Northants are in the top flight
The England & Wales Cricket Board has confirmed the switch back to two divisions following a vote by all of the first-class counties.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the past two summers has seen the County Championship played out in a three-conference format, but that will be scrapped in 2022.
Instead, the Championship will return to schedule that had been voted in for the 2020 season, but never got a chance to play out, and the make up of the divisions will also be as it would have been two years ago.
That means Northants will take their place in division one having won promotion in 2019 alongside Lancashire and Gloucestershire, with Nottinghamshire in division two as they were relegated from division one
Division One will be made up of 10 teams, while there will be eight in division two, with a two-up, two-down promotion-and-relegation system.
The ECB confirmed that a further year of three-conference cricket was considered, but the counties voted against it.
A statement from the ECB read: "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, Northants, 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 news will please new everybody at Northants, with chairman Gavin Warren saying recently: "Our preference if we are honest, is to go back to division one and division two.
"We are in division one, and we worked hard to get there. It is my vote, but the people I ask are Rips (David Ripley), John Sadler, Chris Liddle, Nigel Felton and the captain (Adam Rossington).
“I ask them, ‘what do you want to play in?’ Overwhelmingly, they want to play in div one, so as far as I’m concerned we will vote for div one and two."
In the two-division structure, each county will play 14 matches over the season.
It means that in Sadler's first season in charge as head coach, the County will go up against the likes of 2019 and 2020 county champions Essex, and 2021 champions Warwickshire, as well as Yorkshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Somerset, Hampshire, Kent and Gloucestershire.
Division One teams: Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire, Yorkshire.
Division Two teams: Durham, Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex, Worcestershire.