Lancashire begin title defence against Sussex

Lancashire celebrate winning the title
Lancashire won the title for the first time in 77 years last season

Lancashire will start the defence of their County Championship title against coach Peter Moores' former side Sussex at Aigburth on 12 April.

However, the county season will be making its earliest-ever start with the first round of Championship matches beginning on Thursday, 5 April.

And champions Lancashire will open the season to Abu Dhabi for the curtain-raiser against the MCC on 27 March.

The CB40 will get under way on 4 May, with the FL t20 starting on 12 June.

Lancashire's clash with Sussex will be the first of four Championship fixtures to be hosted at Aigburth, with Warwickshire (19 April), Middlesex (23 May) and Somerset (1 August) the other visitors to last summer's main home base in Liverpool.

Their other four Championship games are all scheduled for Old Trafford.

After spending all last season on the road, while Old Trafford was being reshaped, both on and off the square, Lancashire responded by securing their first outright Championship triumph since 1934 - winning four times at Aigburth, as well as winning once on one of their other 'out grounds' at Blackpool.

And, as well as ensuring their hopes of repeating that success are now once again less dependant on the Manchester weather, it is due reward for the success they enjoyed at their temporary headquarters in 2011.

The meeting between the champion county and an MCC XI, which first moved to the United Arab Emirates three years ago, starts on the same date as last season.

But the start of the Championship season has been creeping forward for several years, having begun on 9 April in 2010 and a day earlier last year.

Runners-up Warwickshire also begin their campaign in the second week of the season at home to Somerset, who open at Taunton against newly-promoted Division Two champions Middlesex.

Relegated Yorkshire, now under the command of former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, start life back in the second tier with a home game against Kent.

Yorkshire's demise means that there will be no Roses match in the Championship in 2012, but the two old rivals are due to meet twice in the space of eight days in mid-summer in the Twenty20 - at Headingley on 29 June before the Old Trafford return on 6 July.

Twenty20 cricket will take over on 12 June, when holders Leicestershire host neighbours Nottinghamshire, until the end of the qualifying phase on 8 July.

The teams are split into three groups, determined along geographical lines, vying for a place in the quarter-finals (24/25 July).

Finals day will be held outside England for the first time at Cardiff on 25 August.

The season will finish slightly sooner than in recent years, with the final round of Championship fixtures starting on 11 September, followed by the CB40 final at Lord's on 15 September.

The CB40, which again involves the 18 first-class counties, Scotland, the Netherlands and the Unicorns, starts on 4 May with a repeat of the 2011 final between holders Surrey and runners-up Somerset.

Club-by-club fixtures


CB40 groups

Group A: Netherlands, Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Essex, Gloucestershire

Group B: Scotland, Durham, Hampshire, Surrey, Welsh Dragons [Glamorgan], Somerset, Nottinghamshire

Group C: Unicorns, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Kent, Warwickshire, Sussex, Northants

FLt20 groups

Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire

Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northants, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire

Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex