Worcestershire will launch their home Specsavers County Championship 2017 programme against Northamptonshire at New Road on April 21 in a new look to the fixture schedule next summer.

Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes' side completed a double last season over their opponents including a record run chase of 401 in the home clash.

That was one of six victories notched up by the County who finished third in Division Two behind champions Essex and Kent.

Worcestershire's opening four-day game is away to Glamorgan at the SSE SWALEC starting on April 14 – a game they dominated last summer before rain intervened during the final two days.

The first six County Championship matches in the reduced 14 game campaign will get underway on Fridays but thereafter the start day varies between Sunday (two), Monday (four) and Tuesday (two).

With Division Two now comprising of 10 teams, Worcestershire will face Glamorgan, Northants, Sussex, Durham and Gloucestershire home and away – the latter fixture making a welcome return as part of the Cheltenham Festival in July.

But there will be just the one encounter against each of Derbyshire (away), Kent (home), Nottinghamshire (away) and Leicestershire (home).

New skipper Joe Leach says playing well – irrespective of whether Worcestershire have to face opponents once or twice – will be the key factor in mounting a promotion challenge.

And the all-rounder is looking for the County to repeat the flying start made to the 2014 campaign when they last sealed a place in the top flight as runners-up to Hampshire.

Leach said: "I'm not sure we will be overly fussed as to the make up of the fixtures in terms of who we play once or twice.

"Ultimately if we play well enough over the course of the season we will find ourself in the shake down for promotion.

"We played well at the Swalec last year so we will go there for the first game full of confidence.

"We will be looking to put together a run of early wins like we did in 2014, the last time we were promoted. "

The away Championship clash with Durham at the Emirates ICG in late June will be played under floodlights.

The make-up of the fixture list is most significantly altered in terms of where the Royal London One-Day Cup and NatWest T20 Blast groups are placed in the programme.

The RLC has been moved from mid summer to a two and a half week block of group fixtures starting in late April with the quarter-finals and semi-finals staged in the same week in mid June and the final at Lord's on July 1.

Worcestershire Rapids opening group game is against Nottinghamshire at New Road with the derby clash with visiting local rivals Warwickshire on May 12.

Leach said: "It's certainly going to be interesting to see how the One Day competition runs this year with it being so early in the season.

"That being said we have got plenty of time to prepare for that competition in particular with it coming so close to the start of the season.

"I'm sure that it's positioning in the season will mean that the tournament will take on more significance for many teams and we will be desperate to go as far as we can and hopefully a trip to Lord's for the final.

"We made some big strides forward in the competition last summer in reaching the quarter-finals and turning in some impressive performances to win away to the likes of Yorkshire, Durham and Nottinghamshire."

The T20 Blast has traditionally been launched in mid May but this year the group fixtures will be fought out in a six week block from early July to mid August before the quarter-finals and then the traditional finals day at Edgbaston on Saturday, September 2.

Worcestershire will start their bid for glory with four successive home games and the always eagerly awaited Birmingham Bears showdown a mouth-watering opener at New Road on Friday, July 7.

The County just missed out on a fourth quarter-final in five seasons last summer after winning four of their opening five games.

Leach said: "With the T20 Blast fixtures being in a block, it will mean that momentum will play a bigger part that in the past couple of seasons.

"With us starting with four home games, hopefully we can hit the ground running all the way to finals day which is a goal all of us at the County want to fulfil.

"Starting at home to Birmingham, will be a real appetiser for the fans and the game has that extra edge for the players as well with being a local derby."

White ball cricket will predominantly dominate during the peak summer months and school holidays with Championship cricket returning in force for a block of four games from the end of August until the conclusion of the season on September 28.

To view the 2017 fixtures click here