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Fixtures for the opening rounds of the LV= County Championship

Durham set for Northamptonshire opener

Durham will open the defence of their LV= County Championship Division One title against newly-promoted Northamptonshire at the County Ground on Sunday April 13.

Paul Collingwood's men claimed their third title in six seasons last summer, winning 10 of their 16 matches and having 24.5 points to spare on second-placed Yorkshire.

They are not involved in the first set of fixtures on Sunday April 6, with five games scheduled across Division One and Two.

Nottinghamshire host Division Two champions Lancashire at Trent Bridge and Sussex take on Middlesex at Hove in the top division while, in Division Two, Surrey welcome Glamorgan to the Kia Oval, Leicestershire host Derbyshire at Grace Road and Hampshire face Worcestershire at the Ageas Bowl.

The Sunday starts for four-day games are one of a number of new features for the 2014 season, along with massive changes to the way the two limited-overs competitions are run.

There will be no domestic one-day cricket until May 16 when the Natwest T20 competition kicks off with seven fixtures, including tasty clashes between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol and Sussex against Surrey at Hove.

Unlike previous seasons, the league portion of the Twenty20 competition will be played earlier in the season and in a much more spread-out fashion, with fixtures mainly being scheduled for Friday evenings in order to try to maximise attendances.

The quarter-finals will take place early in August with Finals Day scheduled for Edgbaston on August 23.

Royal London One-Day Cup

The new Royal London One-Day Cup replaces the YB40 and will be played over 50-overs in a curtailed schedule much like the Twenty20 competitions of old.

It starts on July 26 and the group segment runs for less than a month, with only one set of County Championship fixtures taking part during that spell.

The quarter-finals are scheduled for the last week in August, the semi-finals on September 4 and 6 and the final will take place at Lord's on September 20, by when the focus will have turned to the last three sets of four-day fixtures.

Among rule changes for the County Championship are an increase to five points for a draw, up from three, while the new One-Day Cup will be played under one-day international rules with two new balls per innings.

And in the Twenty20 competition, a new rule has been instituted meaning a Super Over will be played in all tied matches, the first time that will have happened before the knockout stages.

To increase the speed of the game, batsmen must reach the crease within 60 seconds, and counties will be allowed to change the colour of the crease markings from the regulation white to aid spectators and television viewers.

ECB chief executive David Collier said: "This schedule has been designed to make the needs of the fans our number one priority.

"With nearly 70 per cent of T20 group matches scheduled for Friday nights, 67 per cent of LV=County Championship matches commencing on a Sunday and a school summer holiday slot for The Royal London One-Day Cup, this schedule meets the demand from fans for regular 'appointments to view' across all our domestic competitions."

Opening fixtures

LV= County Championship Division One

April 6

Nottinghamshire v Lancashire (Trent Bridge)

Sussex v Middlesex (Hove)

April 13

Somerset v Yorkshire (Taunton)

Northamptonshire v Durham (Northampton)

Middlesex v Nottinghamshire (Lord's)

Warwickshire v Sussex (Edgbaston)

LV= County Championship Division Two

April 6

Surrey v Glamorgan (Kia Oval)

Leicestershire v Derbyshire (Grace Road)

Hampshire v Worcestershire (Ageas Bowl)

April 13

Worcestershire v Kent (New Road)

Essex v Derbyshire (Chelmsford)

Gloucestershire v Hampshire (Bristol)