ICC concurs on two-year Test championship cycle

LONDON • The International Cricket Council (ICC) has moved closer towards providing Test cricket with a meaningful structure, after an apparent consensus was reached on Friday over the creation of a nine-team Test championship to run from 2019 and feature a final every two years.

A competition that goes beyond the current rankings system has been a subject of debate at ICC level for some time and, while proposals for two divisions or a conference-style system have been kicked into the long grass previously, a two-day meeting of chief executives in Dubai during the week has now seen a plan tentatively agreed in principle.

Under the proposal, it is understood the current top nine Test nations would play four series at home and four away over a two- year period, with the league table leading into a final that would decide the outright Test champions.

While countries would only meet once in the league - either home or away - the fixtures would then be reversed next time around.

In addition to this, Test status would also be granted to two new teams - most likely Ireland and Afghanistan - who with Zimbabwe (ranked 10th) would not feature in the league system at first but still be guaranteed fixtures between themselves and against the top teams.

Should these three prove their strength over time, the Test championship could then be either expanded or see other teams swop places.

With the existing future tour programme running until the end of the English summer in 2019, the first edition of the new Test championship could begin that winter with the final - previously tipped to be held at Lord's in London initially - staged in 2021.

Driven by the same desire among the ICC members to give greater meaning and context to bilateral cricket is a second plan to create a 13-team league for one-day internationals that would be played over a three-year period and decide places for a World Cup staged in the fourth year.

Under this system, teams play a minimum of 12 matches per year but with no upper limit. The top seven sides would then go into the World Cup outright alongside the hosts, with the remainder entering a qualifying competition that includes more associate nations and sees two teams go through.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'ICC concurs on two-year Test championship cycle'. Print Edition | Subscribe