LONDON – Test cricket will crown a world champion in 2021, after the ICC agreed to a new-look league involving nine countries.
The World Championship, scheduled to start with the 2019 Ashes, was given the green light at a board meeting in Auckland on Friday.
England, Australia, India, Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Bangladesh will play six series apiece – three home and three away – between the end of the 2019 World Cup and April 2021, with the final in June that year.
The move is designed to provide international Test cricket with greater context as it combats the effects of a growing number of Twenty20 tournaments.
Additionally, one-day internationals will be given a shot in the arm with a new 13-team league running from late 2020, providing direct qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
Sportsmail answers the big questions about the new Test cricket Championship.
Will the Ashes remain in its current format?
Yes. England versus Australia will continue to be played over five Tests and will be factored into the two-year cycles.
But if an Ashes series is five matches, which ones count?
All of them – the ICC want every Test within a series to contribute to the league standing.
How will points scoring work?
This is yet to be worked out. The model being worked on will see points awarded for both a series win and for individual matches. For example, if the total points for a series was 25, 10 might be for a series win, with the remaining 15 points divided between the Tests.
So will all Test series played contribute to the table?
Not necessarily. The six series for an individual team that contribute to the championship will be set out in the ICC’s next future tours programme. However, countries remain free to schedule other Test series outside the league if they wish.
England, for example, will begin their eighth series since January 1, 2016 when they walk out at the Gabba on November 23. If they play that many in future two-year periods, only six will be incorporated into the championship.
How will the winners be decided?
The intention is for the top two teams to be pitched together in a one-off final every other June. While the ICC are not discounting the league leaders being automatic hosts, there is a strong appetite for Lord’s to be the neutral venue of the inaugural league.
Those with good memories will recall that Lord’s was due to be the venue for the final in 2013, only for the previous Test Championship framework to collapse.
So are five-day Tests here to stay, then?
For now, although the ICC have provided scope for four-day Tests to be scheduled on an extended trial until the Championship starts. These matches are likely to involve the three Test countries not in the inaugural league – Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.