Plans for a Test championship and one-day international (ODI) league have been approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body for the sport, which will also allow the trial of four-day Test matches.
The new championship, which is to begin after the Cricket World Cup in 2019, will involve nine teams playing six series of Test matches over a two-year period, culminating with the top two teams playing off in a championship final.
Teams will play three series at home and three away, with all series scheduled to last a minimum of two matches’ duration, with the ability to extend to five for events like the Ashes between England and Australia.
From 2021, a 13-nation ODI league will go ahead for two years and be used to as a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup, with the top 13 sides to play eight series lasting three matches, over the course of three years.
"I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement and putting the interests of the development of the game first,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar. "Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on. This means fans around the world can enjoy international cricket knowing every game counts and in the case of the ODI league, it counts towards qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup."
Meanwhile, the ICC has cleared a trial of four-day Test matches, breaking the standard five-day format that has been in place in recent decades. The matches will run up until the 2019 World Cup. South Africa had already declared their intention to play Zimbabwe in a four-day game in late December.
The changes follow the admittance of Ireland and Zimbabwe as Test-playing full ICC members earlier this year.
"Throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear that we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket," said ICC chief executive David Richardson.
“Four-day Tests will also provide the new Test-playing countries with more opportunities to play the longer version of the game. It will, in turn, will help them to hone their skills and close the gap with the top-nine ranked teams. Our priority was to develop an international cricket structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena.”
The 2019 Cricket World Cup is scheduled to be hosted by England and Wales from 30th May to 15th July, and will be the 12th edition of the sport’s 50-over showpiece. India is due to stage the 2023 event, becoming the sole host of the tournament for the first time.