Associates teams to get a shot at Test cricket

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DUBAI: Associate teams will have the opportunity to play Test cricket, with the ICC Board approving an ICC Test Challenge, which will take place every four years between the lowest-ranked Test team and the winner of the ICC Intercontinental Cup. The inaugural Test Challenge will take place in 2018, with the intention of giving a context to the Intercontinental Cup. The Intercontinental Cup, spread out over two years, is a first-class tournament played among the Associate teams. According to the new proposal, the side ranked 10th in the ICC Test rankings on December 31, 2017, or at the conclusion of any series in progress at that time, will play two five-day Tests at home and two five-day Tests away against the winner of the upcoming Intercontinental Cup. 
The next Intercontinental Cup will run from 2015 to 2017, and the next edition from 2019 to 2021. The second ICC Test Challenge is scheduled for 2022. Since the Intercontinental Cup's inception in 2004, Ireland have won it four times, with Afghanistan and Scotland winning one each. The new proposal will give promising teams like Ireland a chance to take their international cricket to the next level. "The ICC Test Challenge now opens the door for Associate Members to play Test cricket and in doing so gives even greater context to the ICC Intercontinental Cup which will now be a pathway to Test cricket," ICC chief executive David Richardson, said at the end of the two-day board meeting in Dubai. 
The Test challenge is not, however, intended to be a relegation process for any Full Member who may be defeated in the contest. Full Member nations will not, it is understood, lose their status and voting rights and their FTP arrangements are also expected to be completed. The Board has agreed to set in place the Test challenge and its structure, format and principles will be passed through following at the ICC's annual conference. During the previous ICC Board meeting in February 8, the Board had gained the necessary votes to approve a large number of sweeping changes relating to the governance, financing and structure of international cricket. One of the cornerstones of the new financial model is an extended Future Tours Programme (FTP) which will now run until 2023, and while it may still be monitored by the ICC, it is expected to comprise bilateral memorandum of understandings that are binding. 
"The FTP is a very important piece of work as it gives Members long-term certainty in relation to both their playing schedule and financial planning," Richardson said. "Significant progress has been made but there is still work to be done to develop a balanced calendar of tours and finalise these agreements." The ICC Board also authorised the drawing up of the necessary constitutional amendments which will be placed before the Full Council at the ICC Annual Conference to be held in Melbourne at the end of June. These amendments refer to the creation of a new commercial arm of the ICC as well as the changes in the administrative structures, pertaining to the chairmanship and the creation of a new all-powerful panel called the Executive Committee. 
In other developments, the ICC has agreed to retain the format of the World T20 for the next edition, to be held in India in 2016. For the next tournament, the top eight Full Members on the ICC T20I rankings, as on April 30 2014, will automatically qualify for the second round, while the ninth and 10th ranked Full Members will get automatic places in the first (qualifying) round. Six qualifiers will progress from the 14-team ICC World T20 Qualifier in 2015, which will be staged in Ireland and Scotland from July 9 to August 2 2015. 

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