Champions to start and Notts the first visitors as Derbyshire are straight into the thick of it
DERBYSHIRE will be straight in at the deep end in Division One of the LV County Championship.
Successive away matches against champions Warwickshire and much-fancied Middlesex await the Division Two winners at the beginning of the 2013 county season, with a home match against Nottinghamshire and a trip to Yorkshire to follow before they see the end of April.
But skipper Wayne Madsen believes having such a tough set of fixtures to start their campaign could suit Derbyshire down to the ground.
"It's a challenge but we will be up for it," he said.
"It could turn out to be a good thing for us to get some of the tough ones out of the way early, because we have tended to start seasons quite well recently.
"If we can get a good result or two early on, it will do us a power of good."
The visit of Notts in their opening home fixture will be eagerly anticipated by Derbyshire supporters through the winter and its outcome will be one closely monitored by other Division One counties who are unfamiliar with the County Ground conditions.
That, says Madsen, could be the key to Derbyshire's chances of success.
"If I was at Notts, I would not be fancying being the first team to play at Derby this season at all, on our wicket, in our conditions," he added.
"Our wickets tend to do a bit for the bowlers, especially at that time of year, and we know what they look like and what they play like.
"So many sides this season will have to come to Derby not having played here for a few years and not knowing what to expect and I think that will be a big advantage for us.
"It's great for our supporters to get Notts to the County Ground straight away and it's a game we can all look forward to."
Derbyshire won their first two Championship matches last season to set a solid platform for their Division Two title challenge and went on to lead the way all the way through to the end of the season.
The pre-season trip to Barbados was a key factor in that good start and Derbyshire will head back to the Caribbean again from March 11-23 for their first competitive action against county opposition, with the first Championship match to follow on April 10.
That level of preparation will be even more crucial this time but Madsen knows his squad will need no added incentive to work hard before then.
"The motivation is there even more to make sure we prepare and train as well as possible through the winter for this," he said.
"We know the games are going to come thick and fast and we are going to be playing in a big game practically every week.
"That's the challenge of playing in Division One but it's exciting and one we are all looking forward to.
"We have to go into this season with the same sort of attitude we had last season – that we won't be intimidated by the bigger counties and that we will go into every game believing we will win."
The season has a later start date than this year and it has been extended by two weeks to September 27, because there will be no English counties in next year's t20 Champions' League.
This will be the final season of 40-over cricket before the county restructuring comes into place in 2014 and Derbyshire are in a group with Durham, Surrey, Essex, Hampshire, Lancashire and Scotland, with fixtures again split between early and late season.
The Friends Life t20 again commands pole position in the summer fixture list, with the Falcons in the same group alongside Notts, Yorkshire, Durham, Leicestershire and Lancashire.
This season, however, the 10 t20 matches are stretched out over a slightly longer, one-month period and punctuated by two Championship fixtures.
Chesterfield will host two t20 games instead of the two 40-over matches it had last season and six days of cricket at Queen's Park are scheduled for mid-July, including the Championship match against Yorkshire.
Another season highlight will see Martin Guptill return with New Zealand for a three-day game at Derby from May 4-6, while the County Ground will host an Under-19 one-day international between England and Pakistan on August 16.