The Ashes of 2019 is pencilled in to be the first series played in the world Test championship.
A meeting of the International Cricket Council board on Friday in Auckland gave approval to the introduction of a nine-nation Test championship from 2019 and a 13-country one-day league from 2020.
Cricket chief executive James Sutherland, who had pushed hard for the introduction of a new structure to give more context to matches in the Test and 50-over formats, labelled the development “a really significant moment in international cricket history”.
The Test championship is likely to begin when tour England in two years’ time.
“The Ashes will continue to be the biggest Test event that we play in but these matches will have even greater meaning than they do currently, if that’s possible,” Sutherland said.
“In fact, looking at the draft schedule it may well be that the first ever series of this championship is the Ashes series of 2019.”
In Tests, each of the nine teams will play six series over two years – three at home and three away – with each series being between two and five Tests in length. The leading two countries will then contest a final, most likely to be held at Lord’s. The ODI league will see teams play four home-and-away series each, with all series three matches long. The league table will also contribute to World Cup qualification.
“I think this is the first time that there has been broad structure and context for international cricket,” Sutherland said. “It’s a tremendous step forward.”
While all matches in the Test championship will be played over five days, the ICC gave approval for a trial of four-day matches up until the 2019 World Cup between countries that agree to play them.
That won’t include , however, with Sutherland saying on Friday that he could not envision Steve Smith’s team playing a Test over four days in that period based on the current schedule.
Sutherland said that when the championship kicked off, would play slightly less Test cricket than the team does now.
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said the green light given to the Test and one-day championships was a a result of a “collective desire to secure a vibrant future for international bilateral cricket”.
“The approval of both leagues is the conclusion of two years of work from the members who have explored a whole range of options to bring context to every game,” Richardson said.
“The ICC Board decision today means we can now go and finalise a playing schedule for the first edition as well as the points system, hosting arrangements and competition terms.”
England had pushed behind the scenes for four-day Tests to get the nod in an effort to make the format more commercially viable.
“Our priority was to develop an international cricket structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena,” Richardson said. “This has been delivered and every Test in the new league will be a five-day Test format.
“However, throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear that whilst context is crucial we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket. The trial is exactly that, a trial, just in the same way day-night Tests and technology have been trialled by members.
“Four-day Tests will also provide the new Test playing countries with more opportunities to play the longer version of the game against more experienced opponents, which, in turn, will help them to hone their skills and close the gap with the top nine ranked teams.”