WORCESTERSHIRE CCC's captain Joe Leach is confident of a successful County Championship season, stating the side are in "as good a spot as we could be" ahead of their opening fixture at reigning champions Essex tomorrow.

County travel to Essex County Cricket Club to begin their 2021 campaign on the back of a decent, albeit short, 2020 season and captain Leach was in good spirits speaking to the Worcester News on Wednesday morning despite what has been an up and down year.

"It's been a strange last 12 months, a strange time to be a sportsman," said Leach.

"A weird season last year but this season looks like being a bit more normal so really excited to get going and get a bit of normality back.

"I don't think we could have hoped for a better pre-season.

"I couldn't have asked for much more from the group, with the vast majority of players getting time in the middle or done well with the ball.

"So we're in as good a spot as we could be for tomorrow and now it's just about translating that into the competition."

It is a revised County Championship structure for 2021. The 18 first-class counties have been split into three seeded groups of six, with seedings based on performances in four-day cricket in 2019 and 2020 and accommodation also made for local derbies. Each county will play the other counties in their group home and away – a total of 10 matches.

Worcestershire have been drawn in Group One for the first stage of the tournament with Derbyshire, Durham, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and reigning champions and Bob Willis Trophy winners Essex, whom Leach's men face tomorrow.

"They have been the top side for the past two or three seasons," Leach added.

"They have some of the best players in the country, not to mention Sir Alistair Cook, the leading run scorer in English history so they are going to be a strong test.

"But we are really excited for it, it will be a good marker for us to see where we're at after our improvements last year and if there's a good time to play them, then the first game is probably it."

Once the group stage is over, the top two counties from each group will move into Division One, third and fourth into Division Two and then fifth and sixth into Division Three, where each county will then play four more games.

The winner of Division One will be crowned champions and then the Bob Willis Trophy will be competed by the county champions and the runners up in Division One.

It was a shortened season last year due to the pandemic but Worcestershire were only one win away from qualifying for the Bob Willis Trophy and Leach is hoping of building on that success.

"You set set yourself up to fail if you make specific targets at the start of the season," he said.

"So for us it's continuing on from the progress we made last season and if we can do that over the first 10 games then we will see success but I have played cricket long enough to know it's an unpredictable sport.

"Our main goal is to keep improving and we will see where that gets us."

With restrictions of spectators at sporting events still in place, games until May will be played behind closed doors but when fans are allowed back into grounds, cricket will have the advantage of being mid-season and Leach thinks the sport could really benefit.

"You kind of hope more people come through the gate," he added.

"You do miss fans and you hope we get more people in. I think cricket has an advantage as when fans are permitted again it will be peak of the summer when the cricket season is in full-swing and cricket will be the most accessible sport during that time.

"It would be great to see New Road with a few more people in but we have always been well supported as a club anyway so we are one of the luckier teams in terms of presence for games.

"There is nothing like playing cricket in front of people."

On a personal level, Leach has been in fine form in the last few seasons. He has taken 92 County Championship wickets in the previous three competitions but when asked whether the records bother him, he says he has bigger fish to fry.

"I am ready and raring to go," admitted Leach

"Personal wicket tallies aren't something I pay that much attention to. I have enough on my plate captaining the side to worry about that.

"I feel in a good sport and hopefully we can get a full a season as possible and see how we go."