County cricket: BBC Sport's club-by-club guide to the 2015 summer
The county season gets under way on Sunday as champions Yorkshire start the defence of their title against promoted Worcestershire at New Road.
Hampshire begin life back in Division One at home to Sussex, while Middlesex host Nottinghamshire and Durham face Somerset at Taunton.
In Division Two, last season's bottom club Leicestershire, without a County Championship win for two years, entertain Glamorgan, while Northants take on Gloucestershire.
Surrey, with former England batsman Kevin Pietersen back in their ranks, begin their bid for promotion against Glamorgan at Cardiff on 19 April.
Like last season, most Championship games will start on Sundays, with the majority of T20 Blast group games on Fridays, beginning on 15 May.
One-Day Cup group games will all take place between 25 July and 19 August, with quarter and semi-finals to follow ahead of the final at Lord's on 19 September.
The BBC will again have commentary on every day of every county match this summer, via the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app on desktop, tablet and mobile.
Captain: Wayne Madsen
Overseas players: Martin Guptill (New Zealand, for first three games), Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka, June, then early August to end of season), Nathan Rimmington (Australia, for T20)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 4th, One-Day Cup: Quarter-finalists, T20 Blast: 9th in group.
Season prospects: Derbyshire are full of confidence after ending last season very strongly, winning five out of six matches. Elite coach Graeme Welch is in his second year in the job and having offloaded several older and experienced players, there are a number of youngsters who will look to stake a claim having played Championship cricket last season. The additions of New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill and Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan will add experience, but apart from winning promotion in the Championship, the club has highlighted the limited overs competitions as the main area for improvement. Splitting the four-day and T20 captaincy between Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston is a clever move, with both experienced performers in both forms of the game.
One to watch: Left-arm seamer Mark Footitt, 29, was the country's leading wicket-taker last year, with 84 in first-class cricket at an average of 19.19, including six five-wicket hauls. He took 106 wickets across all formats, bowls around 90 mph at times, and was rewarded with an England performance squad place in South Africa in the winter. If he is not called up by England he will be a talisman for Derbyshire with the red ball.
By BBC Radio Derby's Ed Dawes
Captain: Paul Collingwood (for Championship), Mark Stoneman (for limited-overs cricket)
Overseas players: John Hastings (Australia)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 5th, One-Day Cup: Winners, T20 Blast: 6th in group.
Season prospects: Durham were seen by many as relegation certainties for 2013 and won the title. Last season many of the same pundits were queuing up to write them off again, but for the second year in a row embarked on a run of form in August and September which proved fruitful. If they can keep injuries to a minimum there's no reason to think Division One's longest-serving side could not be there or thereabouts in the Championship, especially with Yorkshire losing so many players to England. As things stand Durham lose seamer Mark Wood and all-rounder Ben Stokes. Both will be a miss but Stokes can change games on his own. Hopefully there is enough experience in the rest of the squad to cover those losses. Mark Stoneman scored 1,000 Championship runs for the second year in a row, while Scott Borthwick did the same. Chris Rushworth took 64 wickets too, a personal best. And Paul Collingwood's decision to put off retirement for at least another year was an added bonus.
One to watch: There remain many exciting prospects, but if Mark Stoneman can continue his form with the bat then he'll be hard to beat.
By BBC Newcastle's Martin Emmerson
Captain: James Foster (for Championship)
Overseas players: Jesse Ryder (New Zealand), Shaun Tait (Australia, for T20)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 3rd, One-Day Cup: Quarter-finalists, T20 Blast: Quarter-finalists.
Season prospects: It's a markedly younger squad this term, helped out by some older heads. But they are missing all-rounders Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara for the first few weeks of the campaign as they are playing in the IPL, while England Test captain Alastair Cook will hardly be seen. That means Tom Westley, Jaik Mickelburgh and Kishen Velani will need to step up with the bat and Jamie Porter will need to continue where he left off last year with the ball. Bowlers Reece Topley and Matt Salisbury will need to be managed properly after both suffered stress fractures to their backs. Essex will pick from a core squad of 15 players so, if they wish to be successful, they may have to sacrifice one of the competitions. And with Surrey and Lancashire in Division Two they are going need to start well to challenge for promotion.
One to watch: Kishen Velani is an exciting stroke-maker who has had a taste of first-team action. At 20 he has all the attributes to make a good career for himself and has played for England at under-19 level. The wild card is Dan Lawrence, who at 17 lacks nothing when it comes to confidence in his batting ability and struck a half-century in pre-season against a decent Surrey attack. Don't be surprised to see him thrown into the fray at some point.
By BBC Essex's Glenn Speller
Captain: Jacques Rudolph
Overseas players: Jacques Rudolph (South Africa)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 8th, One-Day Cup: 5th in group, T20 Blast: Quarter-finalists.
Season prospects: Glamorgan's main aim is to improve their Championship form after three seasons of identical records - winning three and losing six. A climate of austerity and a council bail-out of a large chunk of debt means a small senior squad, so they'll need consistency from the senior players and a breakthrough season for some of the promising youngsters. Australian paceman Michael Hogan will be wanted back after injury as soon as possible. It may be a year or two early for teenage batsman Aneurin Donald and tall paceman Jack Murphy, but they should get useful first-team experience at some point. Limited-overs form was very competitive in 2014 and they should have reached T20 Finals Day, but the loss of all-rounder Jim Allenby to Somerset means coach Toby Radford having to re-balance his team.
One to watch: South African batsman Colin Ingram arrives off the back of a run-rich season at home with Warriors in four-day and 50-over cricket. Captain Jacques Rudolph is also hopeful Ingram will be a positive influence on younger players. The more those two score, the more freedom for other batsmen.
By BBC Wales' Nick Webb
Captain: Geraint Jones (Championship), Michael Klinger (for limited-overs cricket)
Overseas players: Michael Klinger (Australia, from June)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 7th, One-Day Cup: Quarter-finalists, T20 Blast: 8th in group.
Season prospects: There's a new dawn and a buzz around Bristol at the start of a season that sees changes both on and off the field. Richard Dawson has taken the helm as head coach, backed up by the popular Ian Harvey, and former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones has come in initially as skipper. They have a strong batting line-up, with Australian Michael Klinger set to join Will Tavare, Chris Dent, Gareth Roderick and the experienced Hamish Marshall, who will hope that having a busy benefit season won't detract from his performance. The bowling line-up has been beset by injuries, and James Fuller in particular will be hoping to have a trouble-free campaign. All-rounder Craig Miles will hope to continue the form that is beginning to catch the eye of England's selectors. The county could well be an outside bet in Division Two of the County Championship. In the 20 and 50-over competitions they have a batting line-up that should do well and cause a few surprises.
One to watch: Will Tavare scored a century on his county debut, reaching three figures with a six which must have surprised his uncle Chris, and finished the season with three more tons and 950 Championship runs. Gloucestershire fans will be looking for further big scores from a local lad who at the beginning of 2014 would have thought he was just going to get the occasional game.
By BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Bob Hunt
Captain: Jimmy Adams (for Championship and One-Day Cup), James Vince (for T20 Blast)
Overseas players: Jackson Bird (Australia, for first three months of season), Yasir Arafat (Pakistan, for limited-overs cricket)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: Winners (promoted), One-Day Cup: 9th in group, T20 Blast: Semi-finalists.
Season prospects: Three seasons away from the top division of the County Championship is a long time and Hampshire will hope to finish the summer well away from the bottom two. They will again rely on runs from Jimmy Adams, James Vince and Will Smith, who all passed 1,000 last summer, and Michael Carberry should be available for all matches this time. The bowling department looks strong, for the first part of the season at least. Australian fast bowler Jackson Bird, seemingly over injury problems, has big shoes to fill after the success of Kyle Abbott, and veteran Andre Adams' early-season stint will also be important, having recovered from knee surgery in the winter. Hampshire will miss Matt Coles' wholeheartedness with the ball, increasing the workload on others, and replacement Gareth Berg, who was signed just before Coles departed, is not quite so 'in your face'.
One to watch: It took wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Wheater two seasons to oust the popular and much-admired Michael Bates, something many never thought would happen. Wheater's keeping is underrated, and while many tip Sam Billings of Kent for international honours in the future, Wheater's name should not be ignored.
By BBC Radio Solent's Kevan James
Captain: Rob Key
Overseas players: None signed at present
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 6th, One-Day Cup: Semi-finalists, T20 Blast: 6th in group.
Season prospects: Kent can look forward to 2015 with some optimism, despite having flattered to deceive in the County Championship last season when they failed to put any real pressure on the top two. Their key deals for this campaign may not be the returning Joe Denly or the mercurial Matt Coles, but signatures on new contracts from some of their younger names. Daniel Bell-Drummond has the attitude and raw talent to kick on from his first 1,000-run campaign, while Sam Billings' explosive batting in their One-Day Cup run won him England recognition and a growing reputation. Kent's challenge is to harness the undoubted potential of their younger players with a squad that looks to have more strength in depth this time around. It just might be enough to take them to the promotion that team and supporters crave.
One to watch: Adam Riley is another of Kent's young guns to commit his future to the club. The off-spinner forced his way into the county side last season at the expense of England's James Tredwell, and pundits are queuing up to demand his inclusion in the Test squad this summer.
By BBC Radio Kent's Matt Cole
Captain: Tom Smith
Overseas players: Peter Siddle (Australia, first four games of the season, subject to Cricket Australia approval), James Faulkner (Australia, late May to end of August)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 8th (relegated), One-Day Cup: 8th in group, T20 Blast: Beaten finalists.
Season prospects: Lancashire have undergone a rebuilding process over the winter following their second relegation in three seasons. The appointment of Ashley Giles as cricket director and head coach was the clearest indication that they wanted a fresh approach. Tom Smith is Glen Chapple's successor as captain and will be assisted by Steven Croft. The signing of South African batsman Alviro Petersen and Australians Peter Siddle and James Faulkner is a clear statement of intent. Lancashire needed to strengthen their batting and Petersen gives them a more solid-looking top order. They have also convinced veteran batsman Ashwell Prince to postpone his retirement plans. They should have enough to win promotion back to Division One.
One to watch: It could be a big season for wicketkeeper Alex Davies. With Jos Buttler's involvement likely to be limited because of England commitments, there should be plenty of opportunities for the 20-year-old, who scored almost 500 runs at an average of 27.58, including three fifties, last season. He is a gritty batsman who seems to relish a challenge, and his glove work was extremely impressive.
By BBC Radio Lancashire's Scott Read
Captain: Mark Cosgrove
Overseas players: Clint Mackay (Australia, from 26 April), Grant Elliott (New Zealand, for T20)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 9th, One-Day Cup: 5th in group, T20 Blast: 8th in group.
Season prospects: After failing to win a single match and finishing bottom of Championship Division Two in each of the last two seasons, there are real prospects of change for the better at Grace Road. New chief executive Wasim Khan has built on the signing of hard-nosed Australian seamer Clint McKay by bringing in fellow Aussies (and former Leicestershire all-rounder) Andrew MacDonald as head coach, and England-qualified batsman Mark Cosgrove as captain, adding steel, ability and experience to a young squad hit by the departures of Josh Cobb, Shiv Thakor, Greg Smith and Nathan Buck. The batting line-up has real potential, and the Australian influence will surely benefit batsmen such as Angus Robson and Ned Eckersley. But the Foxes will need McKay to stay fit and off-spinner Jigar Naik to rediscover his form if they are to take enough wickets to have a serious chance of achieving Khan's target of promotion.
One to watch: Opener Angus Robson performed superbly in adversity last season, passing 1,000 runs in Championship cricket, while Eckersley and Dan Redfern both under-performed in relation to their ability.
By BBC Radio Leicester's Richard Rae
Captain: Adam Voges (for first four Championship matches), Eoin Morgan (for limited-overs cricket)
Overseas players: Adam Voges (Australia - for first four Championship matches)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 7th, One-Day Cup: 7th in group, T20 Blast: 9th in group.
Season prospects: A dramatic final evening of the Championship season at Old Trafford saw Middlesex narrowly escape relegation by batting out the draw to send their hosts, Lancashire, down. The county relied heavily upon the runs of captain and overseas star, Chris Rogers, last season and without his contributions it's hard to see how they would have avoided the drop. In Adam Voges it had appeared that managing director Angus Fraser had found the perfect replacement to fill both the role of talisman and leader, but his recall to the Australia squad means he will only play the first four games of the season. His replacement is likely to be pivotal to a squad that promises so much but appears to be falling short of those expectations. The Twenty20 has proved a frustrating experience for players and spectators alike in recent years and whether a top overseas batsman will be signed to add some more explosive power to the line-up will be crucial to whether Middlesex can challenge to qualify from the group. The one-day competition has seen some better moments but, much like in the longer form, consistency remains the biggest stumbling block for a much-envied squad.
One to watch: Nick Compton's return from Somerset has added depth to the batting while Steven Finn will be fired up for an England recall as he leads an ever-impressive seam attack. But for me the player that can elevate Middlesex to Championship contenders is still Toby Roland-Jones. The seamer has the potential to be the most feared bowler in the country but injuries have held him back. If he can hit the ground running then both he and Middlesex can dream of reaching the top.
By BBC London 94.9's Kevin Hand
Captain: Alex Wakely
Overseas players: Rory Kleinveldt (South Africa), Shahid Afridi (Pakistan, for T20 until mid-June)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 9th (relegated), One-Day Cup: 6th in group, T20 Blast: 7th in group.
Season prospects: Northamptonshire will hope to put a disastrous 2014 behind them, when they failed to win a Championship game and looked short of confidence and quality for long periods in the top flight. Throw in the retirement or release of experienced players such as David Sales, Andrew Hall and James Middlebrook and in comparison, the 2015 vintage is a much younger squad. While just 17 players are on the books, there is quality there. Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt will be available all season long and the batting looks as if it will make runs, if they can see off the new ball. While the bulk of the seam attack - including a fully fit and new vice-captain David Willey - that saw them promoted in 2013 is still there, keeping them fit will be Northants' major challenge.
One to watch: While young batsmen like Adam Rossington and Ben Duckett could shine, it's bowlers that get you out of Division Two and Northants will rely a lot on new overseas seamer Rory Kleinveldt. The South African bowls accurate spells at a decent if not express pace. With David Willey at the other end, Northants will hope the 32-year-old can form an effective new ball partnership in English conditions.
By BBC Radio Northampton's Chris Egerton
Captain: Chris Read (for Championship), James Taylor (for One-Day Cup and T20 Blast)
Overseas players: Vernon Philander (South Africa, until early June), Ben Hilfenhaus (Australia, from early June), Darren Sammy (West Indies, for T20 from 31 May-12 June)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 4th, One-Day Cup: Semi-finalists, T20 Blast: quarter-finalists.
Season prospects: Nottinghamshire reverted to type in 2014 by threatening to challenge for all three pieces of silverware, only to fall short each time, principally due to international call-ups. Director of cricket Mick Newell has taken steps this time to bolster his resources and the acquisitions of proven performers in Will Gidman, Greg Smith and Brendan Taylor should strengthen the county's chances in all formats. Second or third favourites in the two longer competitions would seem to be about right but their best chance of a trophy may well be in the T20 Blast. Winning it for the first time remains a high priority and with West Indies all-rounder Darren Sammy available for the business end of the competition, this could be the season that the county delivers their first domestic T20 title.
One to watch: It's often a gamble to forecast success for someone who has no previous experience of the daily grind of county cricket. In Brendan Taylor, though, that prediction would seem to be a formality. His performances with the bat for Zimbabwe have elevated him up the world rankings and he bowed out of international cricket with a stunning century against India in the World Cup last month. Taylor, who can also provide wicketkeeping cover for Chris Read, should show his worth in a top order line-up that will rival any other.
By BBC Radio Nottingham's Dave Bracegirdle
Captain: Marcus Trescothick (County Championship only), Alfonso Thomas (limited-overs cricket).
Overseas players: Abdur Rehman (Pakistan), Sohail Tanvir (Pakistan, for first half of T20), Corey Anderson (New Zealand, for second half of T20), Chris Gayle (West Indies, for up to six games in T20).
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 6th, One-Day Cup: 6th in group, T20 Blast: 5th in group.
Season prospects: A frustrating 2014 campaign, especially in the one-day competitions, ultimately cost Dave Nosworthy his job at Taunton. New director of cricket, Matt Maynard, has had to deal with the departure of Nick Compton and a potentially career-ending injury to Craig Kieswetter, with Jim Allenby and Tom Cooper arriving to help bolster the squad. Maynard's arrival is likely to herald a more positive intent from an undoubtedly talented squad, particularly in the short forms of the game, and if the club's young players continue to develop, they could also be a real handful in the Championship.
One to watch: While he's only here for a handful of T20 Blast games, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle is one of very few huge international names playing in the competition this year. Lewis Gregory, Craig and Jamie Overton could all star if they remain fit, and the latest youngster to come through Somerset's academy, batsman Tom Abell, is definitely one to keep an eye on.
By BBC Radio Bristol & BBC Somerset's Ed Hadwin
Captain: Gareth Batty
Overseas players: Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Moises Henriques (Australia, for T20 and as cover for Sangakkara, from end of IPL season)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 5th, One-Day Cup: 9th in group, T20 Blast: Semi-finalists.
Season prospects: It will be fascinating to see how Surrey progress, with promotion the aim in the Championship. The so-called 'younger' players in Jason Roy, Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari have now all scored big Championship hundreds and know how to win four-day games. There will be real competition for places in the top seven. On the bowling front, Matthew Dunn led the attack and Tom Curran made a real impact. They will have the experience of Jade Dernbach, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Meaker, Tim Linley and the returning David Balcombe alongside them. New captain and spinner Gareth Batty will lead by example and was outstanding with the ball last year. Oh yes, and did I mention Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin Pietersen? Two world-class batsmen who are creating a real buzz for the summer. Surrey will want to be at T20 Blast Finals Day again and they will be looking for improvement in the 50-over competition. If Surrey achieve their potential they will be where they want to be come the end of the season.
One to watch: Nuggety, consistent and reliable, Rory Burns is the sort of player that you want at the top of the order. The harder the battle, the better he gets and if he continues the progress he has shown over the last couple of years he should get more of the headlines and be mentioned in England circles.
By BBC London 94.9's Mark Church
Captain: Ed Joyce (for Championship and One-Day Cup), Luke Wright (for T20 Blast)
Overseas players: Steve Magoffin (Australia); Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka, for first half of T20)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: 3rd, One-Day Cup: 8th in group, T20 Blast: 7th in group.
Season prospects: Having finished third in the Championship in each of the last two seasons, Sussex have strengthened their squad and look capable of mounting a sustained challenge for their first title since 2007. However, that optimism is tempered with the news that seamer Jimmy Anyon will miss the first month of the season recovering from an ankle injury, and there is still no date set for a return for former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior from his long-standing Achilles problem. Winter signings Tymal Mills and Ajmal Shahzad will provide support for the evergreen Steve Magoffin in the seam bowling department. Spin is a concern, with Ashar Zaidi needing to prove he has the ability to take wickets regularly at this level. There will be fierce competition for batting places in the top six particularly with new T20 captain Luke Wright free from IPL duty, but others must share the load that was so often carried single handed by Ed Joyce last summer. Sussex were disappointing in one-day cricket last season, but the appointment of Wright and the signing of Mahela Jayawardene for the first half of the T20 Blast campaign show a determination to reverse that trend.
One to watch: Craig Cachopa was plucked from the relative obscurity of club cricket last season but soon showed why his was formally New Zealand Under-19 captain. Averaging 49 in the Championship, he passed 50 on five occasions and showed he has the ability to play in all formats of the game.
By BBC Sussex's Adrian Harms
Captain: Varun Chopra
Overseas players: Jeetan Patel (New Zealand), Brendon McCullum (New Zealand for T20 Blast)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: Runners-up, One-Day Cup: Beaten finalists, T20 Blast: Winners.
Season prospects: Warwickshire set high standards last summer, finishing in the top two in every competition. Another successful season could depend on their bowlers steering clear of injuries. When all fit, an attack of Chris Wright, Boyd Rankin, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke and Jeetan Patel looks as formidable as any in Division One, and that doesn't include England all-rounder Chris Woakes. The batting last season was strengthened by the unexpected availability of Jonathan Trott for the second half of the season. Much attention this time will focus on young Sam Hain who enjoyed an astonishing debut season. It's a big season too for Varun Chopra who takes on the captaincy full time following the enforced retirement of Jim Troughton. The signing of New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum for half the T20 Blast should make for an exciting defence of the title for the Birmingham Bears.
One to watch: Young batsman Sam Hain made a thrilling introduction to county cricket in 2014 after being discovered by former Warwickshire captain Michael Powell. Expectations of the Hong Kong-born 19-year-old in 2015 will be high but he appears to have a mature, calm temperament and will be watched with great interest by England's hierarchy, who will be able to call on his services from the winter of 2016.
By BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Clive Eakin
Captain: Daryl Mitchell
Overseas players: Colin Munro (New Zealand, for T20), Sachithra Senanayake (Sri Lanka, for early part of season, subject to visa approval and No Objection Certificate), Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan, for second half of season)
How they did last season: County Championship D2: 2nd (promoted), One-Day Cup: 7th in group, T20 Blast: Quarter-finalists.
Season prospects: Much depends on how Worcestershire's youngsters take to Division One cricket. Tom Fell, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Charlie Morris, Richard Oliver and Joe Leach all did well in their first full season, but the step-up in class will be a real test. With England all-rounder Moeen Ali unlikely to play much, a lot of responsibility will be carried by the senior players, and the arrival of Alex Gidman, who has played most of his cricket in Division Two with Gloucestershire, gives captain Daryl Mitchell another experienced ally. Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal will return in July, but will he be the same bowler that took 63 wickets in nine games last season, now his action has been remodelled? If Worcestershire can avoid relegation, they will see it as a successful season. One-day success still eludes them, but making the T20 Blast quarter-finals last season for the second time in three summers did offer hope.
One to watch: Charlie Morris had a great debut season with over 50 wickets and will 'hurry up' some Division One batsmen who have not faced him before. He works hard and played every Championship game last summer. All-rounder Ed Barnard and wicketkeeper-batsman Joe Clarke could also feature as director of cricket Steve Rhodes has never been afraid to blood his youngsters.
By BBC Hereford & Worcester's Dave Bradley
Captain: Andrew Gale
Overseas players: Cheteshwar Pujara (India, from start of season until Finch arrives), Aaron Finch (Australia, from end of May); Glenn Maxwell (Australia, for T20); Kane Williamson (New Zealand, for last three County Championship matches)
How they did last season: County Championship D1: Winners; One-Day Cup: Quarter-finalists, T20 Blast: 5th in group.
Season prospects: The defending champions will be without key players at the start of the season, but I still expect them to mount a serious defence of their title. England calls will test the strength in depth of Yorkshire's squad but coach Jason Gillespie is confident he has the players in reserve to ensure that this is another good season. The seam bowling attack remains the jewel in the crown and back-to-back titles could be on the cards. Yorkshire now have a squad which is proving hard for others to beat. In the last three Championship seasons they have lost just three matches out of 48. It will take a really good team to finish ahead of them. Improvements need to be made in their one-day form and I would expect better fortunes in the T20 Blast this time around.
One to watch: In his second spell with Yorkshire, veteran bowler Ryan Sidebottom remains one of the best seamers in the country. He impressed again in 2014 and was ruthless in his demolition of Notts in the game which clinched the title. Sidebottom provides valuable advice to the club's younger players, especially the bowlers, and remains a model of consistency with the ability to swing the ball while bowling at a decent pace.
By BBC Radio Leeds' Dave Callaghan