Auckland, Oct 13: With an aim to bring context and meaning to bilateral cricket, a nine-team Test cricket league and a 13-team One-Day International league will start in 2019 and 2020, respectively, it was announced on Friday. The Test series league will see nine teams play six series over two years -- three home and three away, the International Cricket Council (ICC) declared after the ICC Board meeting here.
Each team will be having a minimum of two Tests and a maximum of five and all the five-day matches will culminate in a World Test League Championship Final, according to the statement.
"The ODI league will be a direct qualification pathway towards the ICC Cricket World Cup and will be contested by the 12 Full Members plus the winners of the current ICC World Cricket League Championship," ICC said in a statement.
In the first edition of the league, each side will play four home and four away series each comprising of three ODIs moving to all teams playing each other from the second cycle onwards.
ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said that the leagues are a genuine solution to bring context to bilateral cricket.
"I would like to congratulate our Members on reaching this agreement and putting the interests of the development of the game first," Maohar said.
"Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on," the former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President added.
"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."
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said: "This is a significant point in time for ICC Members and our 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.
"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."
The ICC Board here also approved a trial of four-day Test matches to run through until the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Members will be able to schedule four-day games by bilateral agreement and a set of standardised playing conditions will now be finalised.
Richardson said: "Our priority was to develop an international cricket structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena. 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."
Meanwhile, the ICC announced that the World Cup Qualifier will be held in Zimbabwe in March 2018.
Namibia have been confirmed as the host of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in February 2018 whilst the Netherlands have been approved as the host of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 Qualifier 2018. IANS