London: England and Australia have agreed to make next year’s Ashes the first series that will count towards the new nine-team World Test Championship.
A league structure for Test cricket from 2019 was signed off by the International Cricket Council board at a meeting in Kolkata last week and it has now been confirmed that the format’s longest standing rivalry will see in the new era.
It means both the Ashes and points will be at stake when England and holders Australia meet at Edgbaston, Headingley, Lord’s, Old Trafford and the Oval in what is already a bumper summer given the World Cup that comes before.
Under the new Test championship rules, each of the nine teams must play three series at home and three away over a two-year period — it will not, therefore, be all plays all — with points allocated to a league table and the top two then playing a final.
The ICC is yet to announce the full details as the points system is still being devised. The governing body’s general manager, Geoff Allardice, and his department are working through various mathematical models.
One idea being explored is the allocation of 100 points to each series — which must be between two and five Tests — with the winners taking 60 and the remaining 40 allocated based on the results of each match; so-called dead-rubbers will therefore have a fresh incentive.
Another consideration is the final. The ICC must decide how best to create a marquee finish and what occurs in the event of a draw, with a concern being that the top-ranked side may not play to win if a stalemate is enough for glory. A six-day Test match was used to ensure a result in the Super Test between Australia and an ICC World XI in Sydney in 2005 — the hosts, at it happens, won in three and a half days — and could be one possibility.
Zimbabwe and the two sides most recently granted Test status — Ireland and Afghanistan — will not be included in the competition at this stage.