10:23am Tuesday 29th November 2011
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.
But, 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 ever before.
The start of the Championship season has been creeping forward for several years, beginning on April 9 in 2010 and on April 8 last term.
Champions Lancashire, who ended their 77-year wait for a title win in a dramatic denouement this summer, are given the first week of the season off after their return from the United Arab Emirates and will begin their defence with a home match against Sussex on April 12.
Runners-up Warwickshire also begin their campaign in the second week when Somerset come to Edgbaston.
Middlesex, promoted as Division Two champions in the summer, begin their season on April 5 away to Somerset.
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