The first round of LV= County Championship fixtures next year will be the earliest ever, with seven matches beginning on April 5.
The official season curtain-raiser between the champion county Lancashire and an MCC XI will once again take place in Abu Dhabi on March 27 – the same date as last season. However, with the first round of university games on March 31 and both divisions of the championship getting under way five days later, most players will be in action earlier than before.
Champions Lancashire are given the first week of the season off after their return from the United Arab Emirates and will start their defence with a home match against Sussex on April 12.
Runners-up Warwickshire also begin their campaign in the second week when Somerset visit Edgbaston.
Middlesex, promoted as Division Two champions in the summer, begin their season on April 5 away to Somerset, with fellow newcomers Surrey hosting Sussex in their first top-flight fixture since relegation in 2008.
Nottinghamshire, the 2010 champions, also take on Worcestershire at Trent Bridge in the first week.
Yorkshire’s revamped coaching team, led by Australian Jason Gillespie, must get used to life in the second tier when they welcome Kent to Headingley, while Hampshire will look to move on from their own relegation with a home fixture against Gloucestershire on April 12.
Elsewhere in Division Two, Leicestershire, who are hoping to improve on their rock bottom performance this year, are at home to Glamorgan, Gloucestershire travel to Essex and Northamptonshire make the trip to Derbyshire.
The final match of the season is on September 15 when Lord’s once again hosts the Clydesdale Bank 40 final.
That competition, which pits the 18 first-class counties against Scotland, Holland and the Unicorns, starts on May 4 with a repeat of the 2011 final between holders Surrey and runners-up Somerset.