Essex were relegated from Division 1 last year and Lancashire were promoted to Division 1 after finishing top of Division 2. Warwickshire retained their place in Division 1 by beating second in Div 2, Somerset, in the play-off last year.
Each team will play each other just once and the team that finishes top of Division One at the end of the season will be the champions. There will be no Championship Play-Off. The teams that finish 8th and 9th will be automatically relegated to Division 2 for the 2016 season. The teams that finish 1st and 2nd in Division 2 will be automatically promoted to Division 1 for the 2016 season. The full rules are here.
Positions in the league will again be decided on the average number of points a team achieves from completed, but not cancelled or abandoned games (which are ignored). Teams are awarded 10 points for a win and 5 points for a tie. No points are awarded for an abandoned game. An abandoned game cannot be replayed, but a cancelled game can, Up to 4 batting (RR of 4 RPO required) and 4 bowling bonus points (9+ wickets) can be achieved, making a maximum of 18 points per completed game.
Kent won last year's rain-affected championship winning all six games that they played. They failed to play Berkshire and Essex. They were worthy champions though winning most of their games at a canter led by Charlotte Edwards (491 runs) and Tammy Beaumont (417 runs) with the bat and Kiwi import Erin Bermingham (leg-spinner, with 16 wickets) with the ball. With traditional rivals Sussex having a poor season (won three lost three), it was Surrey that finished second, winning five of the seven games they played. Notts won four of the seven they played, but finished fourth behind Berkshire who only managed to play five of their scheduled games (winning three of them).
This season is the first with a white ball, and the first in which county games clash with international fixtures. In fact with the Ashes being played here this summer it is doubtful that any side will see their international players between mid-June and the end of August - this covers four fixture weekends. This will undoubtedly affect some teams more than others, but it effectively throws the County Championship wide open. Kent will be strong when they have their England contingent with them, but do they have players to call on when they are away? Middlesex, on the other hand, will have the same squad available for all their games. The fixtures have fallen nicely for them and they have a real chance of being there or thereabouts come the end of the season. Berks, Notts and Yorkshire will suffer without their England players, but Sussex may have enough strength in depth to weather the shortage. New girls Lancs are also likely to trouble a few teams in their first season back in Div 1. Surrey were last year's surprise package and they will fancy their chances of going one better than last year. With only eight games to be played this could be the most open County Championship for years.
Berkshire (3rd in 2014)
Colours : Black, Green and Gold
Overseas Players : Alex Blackwell/Corrine Hall
England Players : Heather Knight
England Academy Players : Carla Rudd
The addition of Aussie legend Alex Blackwell to the team for the County Championship games on 24th and 25th May will be a brief, but huge, boost to Heather Knight and her team. If they can win those two games then they may well be safe in Div 1 for another year. They will miss Knight when she is on England duty, so it is important that they start the season well.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Heather Knight (5) capt, Alex Rogers (1), Carla Rudd, wkt (2), Georgia Dean (3), Lissy Macleod (4), , Emily Gerke (6), Daisy Gardener (7), Imogen Brown (8), Amanda Potgieter (9), Rachael Hardy (10). Fi Morris (11), Alex Blackwell (12), Sherisa Gumbs (15), Linsey Smith (16), Corrine Hall (17), Isa Guha (19)
Colours : Blue
Overseas Player : To be announced in April
England Players : Tammy Beaumont, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Laura Marsh
England Academy Players : None
Kent's record in the County Championship cannot be denied, and last year they trounced all teams they played. But without some, or all, of their England players they are likely to find it much harder this year. Last year their batting was dominated by Tammy Beaumont and Charlotte Edwards (900+ runs between them). Their bowling was dominated by New Zealander Erin Bermingham, who it seems is not returning for the 2015 season. An announcement on a new overseas player is due in April it seems. Edwards, at least, is likely to miss several matches. Contracted England players Beaumont and Farrant are likely to be available, but Kent's batting will look a bit thin without possibly Edwards, Greenway and Marsh.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Charlotte Edwards capt (23), Tammy Beaumont (2), Megan Belt (6), Lottie Bryan (19), Deanna Cooper (4), Alice Davidson-Richards (24), Tash Farrant (53), Phoebe Franklin (10), Grace Gibbs (61), Lydia Greenway (20), Lauren Griffiths (14), Jenni Jackson (11), Hannah Jelfs (18), Laura Marsh (7), Charlotte Pape (8), Emily Thompson (17)
Lancashire Thunder (Promoted as Div 2 Champions)
Colours : Red
Overseas player : Meg Phillips
England Players : Kate Cross
England Academy Players : Emma Lamb
Lancashire finally made it into Div 1 as 2014 Div 2 Champions, having missed out in 2013, and having been in Div 3 just four years ago. They are a team on the up, with a very professional attitude to the game and will be a tough team to beat. Emma Lamb had a much quieter season with the bat last year and it will be interesting to see how the England Academy girl goes in the top flight. Kate Cross frequently made useful runs last year, so she will be missed for this as well as her bowling skills when on England duty. Young off-spinner Nalisha Patel however was the team's leading wicket-taker in the league last year. Her technique and confidence will be put to the test this year.
They start their season with away games in May against Notts, Kent and Middlesex. It could be a baptism of fire.
Squad (with shirt numbers) : Jasmine Titmuss (3) capt, Natalie Brown (10), Jessica Couser (9), Kate Cross (16), Rachel Dickinson (17), Bhumika Doshi (14), Sophie Ecclestone (19), Megan Fairclough (4), Georgia Holmes (2), Hannah Jones (7), Emma Lamb (6), Laura Marshall (12), Shachi Pai (18), Nalisha Patel (15), Meg Phillips (1), Eleanor Threlkeld (21)
Middlesex (6th in 2014)
Colours : Blue and Pink
Overseas Player : None
England Players : None
England Academy Players : Alex Hartley, Fran Wilson
Middlesex have a new captain in Izzy Westbury and a new batsman in the shape of Fran Wilson from Somerset. Westbury will still have the help and guidance of the experienced Beth Morgan, who marshalled her side beautifully last year. A young side with some exciting young talent - look out for Sophia Dunkley with both bat and ball, who will not be affected by England call-ups. Expect the unexpected. If they get a decent start and believe in themselves then they could be battling it out at the top of the table come September. Their fixtures against Sussex and Kent are nicely timed.
Squad : Izzy Westbury capt, Natasha Miles, Catherine Dalton, Fran Wilson, Beth Morgan, Anna Nicholls, Sophia Dunkley, India Whitty, Ria Ravel, Alex Hartley, Danni Warren, Millie Pope, Naomi Dattani, Hannah Wakeman, Maia Bouchier
Nottinghamshire (4th in 2014)
Colours : Green & Gold
Overseas player : Zoe Richards
England Players : Jenny Gunn, Danni Wyatt
England Academy Players : Sonia Odedra
Jenny Gunn has handed over the captaincy to Sonia Odedra for this season and she will be hoping that Danni Wyatt and Gunn have as good a season with the bat as they did last year. Young Georgie Boyce is also a name to look out for with the bat. With the ball Odedra will miss last year's opening partner, Aussie Megan Schutt, and may have to juggle her bowling resources well. Their season could depend on how many of their England players are required on duty for their country. If Wyatt stays with them throughout the season then they are likely to do quite well.
Squad : Sonia Odedra capt, Georgie Boyce, Amy Gauvrit, Jenny Gunn, Abbey Hawkins, Hannah Hughes, Lucy Maxwell, Zoe Richards, Jane Smit, Ruth Sprawson, Esther Stock, Shelby Sutton, Olivia Thornton, Bethany Unwin, Rebecca Widdowson, Danielle Wyatt
Surrey (2nd in 2014)
Colours : Brown
Overseas player : Rachel Candy
England Players : Nat Sciver
England Academy Players :
Last year veteran leg-spinner Sarah Clarke led the Surrey wicket-takers, and Nat Sciver the run-scorers (courtesy mainly of 154 against Notts). It is difficult to see them repeating last year's heroics and finishing in the top three, but new Director of Women's Cricket, Ebony Rainford-Brent will be keen that her 1st XI have a good season. New Zealander Rachel Candy returns for her second season with the county, and her experience will be invaluable, but she will not be able to do it all on her own. She had an indifferent season in 2014 and may have to contribute more with both bat and ball if Surrey are to feature this year.
Squad - yet to be announced
Sussex (5th in 2014)
Colours : Black
Overseas player : Erin Osborne
England Players : Georgia Elwiss, Sarah Taylor
England Academy Players : Georgia Adams, Freya Davies, Paige Scholfield
Sussex welcome back former England international Holly Colvin after a year out of the game, and she and overseas off-spinner Erin Osborne, could wreak havoc with the ball in the first few games of the season. Batting may be more of an issue for Sussex, but they bat long and they may well need to once Sarah Taylor, and possibly Georgia Elwiss, are called away on England duties. Last year's campaign was a huge disappointment to a talented squad, but their 2015 campaign could be defined in the first weekend when they meet Surrey and then Kent.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Sarah Taylor (30) capt, Georgia Adams (13), Flora Bertwhistle (55), Ellen Burt (8), Izy Collis (22), Holly Colvin (10), Freya Davies (3), Georgia Elwiss (34), Abbey Freeborn (29), Chiara Green (14), Anna Harris (77), Megan Janman (5), Izi Noakes (12), Tara Norris (24), Erin Osborne (67), Hannah Phelps (19), Jess Saunders (44), Paige Scholfield (45), Tanya Wake (4), Alexia Walker (7)
Warwickshire (8th in 2014 beat Somerset in play-off to remain in Div 1)
Colours : Blue & Yellow
England Players : , Rebecca Grundy, Amy Jones
England Academy Players : Georgia Hennessy
Warwickshire struggled last season winning just one of their six games that they played and that against bottom of the table Essex (albeit that they won that by 311 runs!). Apart from that game Warwickshire struggled for runs last year. Amy Jones will have had winter experience in New Zealand, Dubai and Sri Lanka, so should hit the ground running with the bat. She may need to. Warwickshire showed a great deal of character to beat Somerset in last year's play-off with a memorable maiden century from Helen Shipman, and great late order batting from Liz Russell and Isabelle Watson. Warwickshire will hope Shipman is fit to play more games this year and that Georgia Hennessy can bat and bowl as she did against Surrey last year in the opening game of the season (84 and 5/38).
Squad : Nadia Bacciochi, Louise Brazier, Jessica Crawley, Laura Crofts, Georgia Davis, Tiarna Paris Gilkes, Kate Green, Becky Grundy, Georgia Hennessy, Miriam Heritage, Amy Jones, Marie Kelly, Sian Kelly, Anisha Patel, Liz Russell, Liz Smart, Isabelle Watson, Mina Zahoor.
Yorkshire (7th in 2014)
Colours : Purple & Black
Overseas player : Beth Mooney
England Players : Katherine Brunt, Dani Hazell, Lauren Winfield
England Academy Players : Hollie Armitage, Alex Macdonald
Came down to earth with a bump in 2014 winning just two games, against Essex and Berkshire, after reaching the Play-Off Final in 2013. Captain Lauren Winfield was the mainstay with the bat, and they will miss her greatly if she is on England duty, or injured (as currently). They will also miss Kathryn Doherty, who is not available this season. Aimee Simms managed 10 wickets last year, but will also miss 2015, which means Bea Firth and Alex Macdonald will need to lead the attack when Brunt and Hazell are unavailable. It could be another tough year for them.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Lauren Winfield (10), Cecilia Allen (12), Katherine Brunt (2), Hannah Buck (5), Ami Campbell (6), Beatrice Firth (7), Elise Good (14), Dani Hazell (4), Katie Levick (3), Alex Macdonald (9), Beth Mooney (16), Kennedy Nuttall (13), Laura Spragg (11), Katie Thompson (8), Maddy Walsh (15), Jess Watson (1)
Sunday 3rd May
Middlesex v Berks at Edmonton CC
Kent v Yorkshire at KCCC Beckenham
Notts v Warwickshire at Welbeck CC
Surrey v Sussex at Reeds School
Monday 4th May
Berks v Surrey at North Maidenhead
Kent v Sussex at KCCC Beckenham
Notts v Lancs at Welbeck CC
Warwickshire v Yorkshire at Moseley CC
Sunday 24th May
Berks v Notts at Finchampstead CC
Kent v Lancs at Spitfire Ground St Lawrence
Surrey v Middx at Reeds School
Sussex v Warwickshire at East Grinstead CC
Monday 25th May
Berks v Yorkshire at Finchampstead CC
Kent v Notts at Spitfire Ground St Lawrence
Middx v Lancs at Edmonton CC
Surrey v Warwickshire at Reeds School
Sunday 21st June
Warwickshire v Kent at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Lancs v Surrey at Urmston CC
Sussex v Notts at Billingshurst CC
Yorkshire v Middx at Harrogate CC
Sunday 19th July
Lancs v Berks at Wigan CC
Surrey v Kent at Kia Oval
Sussex v Middx at the County Ground Hove
Notts v Yorkshire at Welbeck CC
Sunday 30th August
Lancs v Sussex at Wigan CC
Middx v Kent at Merchant Taylor's School
Warwickshire v Berks at Wellesbourne CC
Yorkshire v Surrey at Harrogate CC
Monday 31st August
Berks v Kent at North Maidenhead CC
Lancs v Warwickshire at Urmston CC
Middx v Notts at Edmonton CC
Yorkshire v Sussex at Harrogate CC
Sunday 13th September
Notts v Surrey at Welbeck CC
Sussex v Berkshire at Horsham CC
Warwickshire v Middx at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Yorks v Lancs at Harrogate CC