Nottinghamshire begin their LV= County Championship campaign against Middlesex at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
Notts finished fifth in Division One last season, two places behind Middlesex, although two more wickets on the final day of the season would have seen Notts leapfrog their London rivals.
Head to Head
The two county sides have met on 109 previous occasions in Nottinghamshire, with all but one of them taking place at Trent Bridge – the 1970 fixture was played at Elm Avenue, Newark, with the visitors winning by 61 runs after centuries from Peter Parfitt and Eric Russell.
"In recent years Notts have run up an exemplary record at the start of each season, winning their last six opening matches."
Perhaps unusually, the away team have had the better of things over the years, with Middlesex boasting a 33-24 winning advantage, with the other 52 matches ending in draws.
Nottinghamshire’s relatively poor record is undoubtedly due to them going without a single victory between 1934 and 1955.
In fact, since that 1934 success, Notts have only beaten Middlesex at home on eight occasions.
The most recent of those was in 2006 when Charlie Shreck produced his career-best figures of 8-31 as Middlesex were bowled out for just 49 in their second innings, to lose by an innings and 33 runs.
Overall, home and away, there have been 220 scheduled matches. Middlesex lead the head-to-head by 75 wins to 55, with 88 matches drawn. In both 1979 and 1987 the matches at Lord’s were abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Both fixtures ended in draws last season. Michael Lumb scored 162 out of Nottinghamshire’s first innings total of 423 in the Trent Bridge match but nightwatchman Ollie Rayner, not expecting to feature in the match, scored a career-best 143 not out in the reply.
At Uxbridge, two months later, Andrew Strauss and some unseasonally wet weather, denied Notts. Andre Adams’ 6-32 accounted for Middlesex’s first innings score of just 98. Strauss made 50 of those and was unbeaten on 127 second time around when the rains came and wiped out the last day. Adam Voges had scored 105 for the visitors.
Two Nottinghamshire players turned in sensational performances in the 2002 win over Middlesex at Trent Bridge. Kevin Pietersen scored 254 not out, the highest innings of his career to date. Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill then claimed 14 wickets (6-54 and 8-111).
Apart from Pietersen’s knock, four other Nottinghamshire batsmen have registered double-hundreds against Middlesex in Nottingham, Arthur Shrewsbury (267 in 1887), Charlie Harris (234 in 1933), Joe Hardstaff jnr (243 in 1937) and Derek Randall, who followed his first innings score of 209 in 1979 with an innings of 146, the only instance of a Notts batsman scoring centuries in both innings against the London side.
The most recent Nottinghamshire debutant in the home series of matches was 16-year old Bilal Shafayat, who made 72 and 24 in 2001. Just six days away from his 17th birthday Bilal seemed on course for a debut century until trapped lbw by former England spinner Phil Tufnell.
Nottinghamshire’s highest-ever individual score came against Middlesex, when Walter Keeton made an undefeated 312 in 1939, in a match played at The Oval.
This week’s match begins the start of a new broadcasting agreement between the BBC and the ECB, with every one of this season’s domestic fixtures now carrying online commentary.
Coincidentally, the 1927 fixture at Lord’s between Middlesex and Notts was the first ever championship match to have ball-by-ball commentary. Listeners heard Pelham Warner’s description of an opening day that saw Notts make 381, before the home side closed on 44-0. The remaining two days weren’t covered but ended with a ten-wicket success for Nottinghamshire.
In recent years Notts have run up an exemplary record at the start of each season, winning their last six opening matches. The last four of those successes have been in Nottingham, with each of the defeated sides, Worcestershire (2009), Kent (2010), Hampshire (2011) and Worcestershire again (2012) eventually being relegated.
A crumb of comfort for Middlesex is that the last time Notts lost their opening match was in 2002 when they went down to Middx at Lord’s by an innings.
Despite winning their opening fixture here a year ago Notts then failed to pick up another Trent Bridge success all summer, with six draws and a narrow 16-run defeat to Durham.
The last first class hat-trick taken by a Nottinghamshire bowler also came against Middlesex, when Charlie Shreck dismissed Ed Smith, Eoin Morgan and Paul Weekes at Lord’s in 2006.
Played for both sides
A significant number of players have represented both counties over the years, amongst them, Mike Harris, Bob White, Harry Latchman, Lance Klusener, David Alleyne, Dirk Nannes, Scott Newman and Stephen Fleming, who scored 151 for Middlesex in the 2001 draw at Trent Bridge, before moving north to skipper Notts to the title in 2005.
Adam Voges, who has been associated with Notts since 2008, has been contracted to play for Middlesex in this summer’s domestic T20 tournament.
Two new signings would appear to be in line for their Nottinghamshire debuts in this match. Australian batsman Ed Cowan and former Yorkshire and Lancashire all-rounder Ajmal Shahzad have joined the Trent Bridge staff for the 2013 season. As international cricketers each will receive their county cap before taking to the field.
Each of the following players are on the brink of a milestone, if selected. Andre Adams has played in 149 previous first class matches, Michael Lumb has taken 99 catches in first class cricket, Andy Carter has 47 first class wickets to his name and Chris Read has completed 395 dismissals at Trent Bridge.
Apart from England internationals Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann Nottinghamshire Director of Cricket Mick Newell has a full squad of players to choose from.
Australia’s Test opener Ed Cowan will open the batting alongside Alex Hales, whilst another new arrival, Ajmal Shahzad, will be hoping to claim one of the four quick bowling slots.
Middlesex: Middlesex already have a centurion in their ranks this season, after Joe Denly made scores of 47 and 146 for MCC in the champion county game against Warwickshire in Abu Dhabi in March.
He, along with the ever-reliable Chris Rogers, who returns from a winter with Victoria to take his place as captain, will bear much of the responsibility at the top of the order.
Neither Steven Finn, resting after his international commitments, nor Eoin Morgan, on IPL duty with Kolkata Knight Riders, will be available for this match but James Harris should play.
The former Glamorgan all-rounder was high on Nottinghamshire’s wanted list at the end of last summer but chose to move to Lord’s instead.
Dave Bracegirdle will provide ball-by-ball commentary from all of Nottinghamshire's matches this season on behalf of BBC Radio Nottingham. Follow him on twitter @BraceCricket