Five county clashes worth watching
Middlesex v Surrey, Lord's, County Championship Division One, April 12 An early-season London derby should be a great test between both promoted teams. Each side will be looking to bring forward last season's form into a new campaign and with survival the main aim for both counties, points earned in this match could prove more valuable than just bragging rights across the Thames.
Durham v Lancashire, Chester-le-Street, County Championship Division One, May 30 This should be the feature match of the opening two months of the season. Reigning champions Lancashire will be out to prove it won't be another 77 years before they're champions again. Durham produced solid cricket in 2011 and remained in the title hunt until the latter stages. They should be one of the frontrunners again.
Somerset v Gloucestershire, Taunton, Friends Life t20, June 29 Taunton is probably the best ground for Twenty20 cricket and Somerset perhaps the best team to watch in the shortest format. Local rivals in town, a packed house and the cider flowing can produce a lively atmosphere. The fixture has also produced some very memorable matches. A West Country derby not to be missed.
Hampshire v Yorkshire, Rose Bowl, County Championship Division Two, July 11 The second meeting of the two relegated sides. By this stage of the season both teams will have demonstrated their response to being in the second division and Yorkshire's revamped coaching staff will have had plenty of cricket to bed in with. Both counties will feel they don't belong in the bottom tier and this match could be an indicator of how well they are coping with life in division two.
Nottinghamshire v Warwickshire, Trent Bridge, County Championship Division One, September 11 A potential title decider? The teams will have met two weeks prior to this final round match and both counties will be hoping they are in the frame for the Championship. Warwickshire will be looking to make amends for their last-day slip up against Hampshire last season. Nottinghamshire will be aiming for a third Championship in eight years. What price final-day drama at Trent Bridge in 2012?
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo