Aussies to host Afghans as part of new schedule

Cricket's newest Test nation to tour Australia in 2020, while New Zealand and South Africa are set to return to MCG for Boxing Day Tests

Andrew Ramsey

20 June 2018, 10:30 PM

Afghanistan will play an historic Test match on Australian soil in 2020, and New Zealand are set to return to the MCG on Boxing Day for the first time in more than 30 years under details of the ICC's extended Future Tours Program released today.

FULL FIXTURE: View the full ICC Future Tour Program here

The document, which enshrines the new concepts of a nine-team Test Championship and a One-Day League structure that will cap the number of 50-over internationals played in between World Cups, also marks a more stringent involvement in scheduling by the game's governing body.

Dhawan's Afghan blitz makes history

In its initial phase that begins with Australia's Ashes campaign in the UK in July next year, the Test Championship won't include trouble-plagued Zimbabwe or recently elevated nations Ireland and Afghanistan.

But the remaining nine nations will accrue points under a yet-to-be-finalised methodology from each Test they play until mid-2021, when the two top-ranked teams will play-off for the Championship title at a venue to be decided.

Most likely to be Lord's in London, with the first final expected to be held around July 2021.

The FTP covers scheduling for the next five-year playing cycle through until 2023, with nations in the Test Championship contesting six series (home and away) within each two-year period, while the ODI League will see teams play eight three-match series in its initial competition from 2020-22.

As foreshadowed, the introduction of a 13-team league table for ODI cricket will restrict all ODI series during the qualifying period to three-match events.

With the prize for the top eight-ranked nations at completion of that cycle being automatic qualification for the quadrennial ICC World Cup.

The only opportunity for nations to host longer ODI series, such as Australia’s current five-match Qantas Tour of England, will be on a bilateral basis during the year immediately prior to each World Cup, when the League competition will be suspended.

And the remaining World Cup qualifiers will be decided.

The major talking points for Australia from the ICC's men’s cricket FTP schedule are:

* Afghanistan to play one Test in Australia prior to India’s four-Test tour in the summer of 2020-21

* New Zealand to play Tests in Australia over the Christmas-New Year period of 2019-20, meaning their first Boxing Day Test appearance in Melbourne since 1987

* Five-Test Ashes series to be preserved under the new Championship structure, with Australia to tour the UK in 2019 and England to reciprocate in 2021-22

* Reshaping of the international summer in Australia to feature a maximum of five Test matches and six ODIs per season under the new Test Championship/ODI League Table guidelines

* Australia to return to South Africa in February-March 2020, for first Tests against the Proteas since the seismic events in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town earlier this year

* South Africa scheduled for Test tour to Australia in 2022-23 when they will feature in Boxing Day-New Year Test window for first time since 2008

* Australia to play Tests in Bangladesh in February 2020, and will also host Tests against Pakistan in the first part of the 2019-20 home summer

* The next Test tour for Australia to India will not be until October-November 2022

* Australia have no Test cricket scheduled between the conclusion of the home summer in January 2020 and the next Australian season starting in November that year

Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland confirmed today that while the ICC will exercise stricter oversight on the scheduling of Test series as part of the Championship proposal, nations will retain the right to decide how long those series will run and where individual Tests will be held.

That means the marquee five-Test Ashes series in Australia and England would be retained within each four-year cycle.

"For both Test cricket and one-day cricket going forward, we won’t have a choice about who we play – that will be determined by the cycle and will be done by the ICC," Sutherland said.

"Notwithstanding that, we obviously want - and the ICC understands the importance of – the regular cycle of Ashes cricket."

The FTP confirms that Australia will retain the right to host their flagship Boxing Day Test for at least the next five years.

But the fixturing of two southern hemisphere nations – New Zealand and South Africa – may lead to pressure for Australia to make a reciprocal tour over the Christmas-New Year period down the track, an issue that led the Proteas to boycott Boxing Day in Australia for the past decade.

A system for deciding an equitable points distribution, made more complex by the disparity in the number of Tests each of the nine competing teams will play over the Championship qualifying period, will be discussed at the ICC's major meeting in Dublin later this month.

However, it seems likely the biennial final – to be scheduled in the period following the Indian Premier League – will be scheduled for England in the short-term, given that a majority of Test-playing nations face scheduling conflicts at the height of the southern hemisphere summer.

South Africa are set to return to the MCG for a Boxing Day Test // Getty

Sutherland said that as the concept of the Test Championship final evolved, he hoped the biennial showpiece might be shared around and potentially be hosted by the team that finishes atop the rankings come the end of the qualifying period.

"Being a new concept and the Test match play-off being a one-off (standalone game), we've agreed that the best timing for the Championship play-off in the first instance is going to be in that July period," he said.

"But we would like the idea – particularly if Australia was to qualify for the final – to host that match in Australia.

"In the short term, certainly over the first two years of the cycle, the likelihood is that the championship final match will be played in the northern hemisphere, in the UK most likely.

"Down the track however, the member countries all like the idea of being able to host it if we could, but the complexity of the program makes that challenging.

"It gets much more difficult in our (southern hemisphere) summer than during the northern summer when typically, in July of any given year, it’s likely that there's only two countries playing Test cricket  – England and whoever else they're playing.

Australia will tour Bangladesh in early 2020 // Getty

"Whereas if you said you were going to play that final in November in the southern hemisphere or the Asian market, it would be very difficult to schedule because it's possible that eight or even 10 full-member countries are playing at that time and already have matches scheduled."

The complexities of re-drawing the ODI landscape to ensure that the 13 top competing nations (currently the 12 Test teams plus the Netherlands) play an equivalent number of matches home and away over the qualifying period are even more pronounced.

As a result, and given the proximity of next year's ICC World Cup in the UK, the first iteration of the ODI League will begin from May 1 2020 and be played out over two years, then after the 2023 World Cup it will adopt its proposed three-year cycle.

Australia's first playing engagement under the ODI League Championship will be on home soil, against Zimbabwe, in June 2020.

The ICC will decide the draw for ODI matches within each qualifying period, with the scheduling based on current global ranking status in an attempt to ensure nations aren't fixtured to play only high or low-ranked opponents.

In addition to recognition and financial incentives, the prize for teams that finish in the top eight of the League ladder will be automatic qualification for the World Cup, which the ICC recently changed to a 10-team competition.

The new ODI Championship will act as World Cup qualifiers // Getty

"The top seven teams (plus the host nation) will automatically qualify for the next World Cup, and the five teams that don't automatically qualify will go into a type of repechage qualifying event," Sutherland said.

"Those top eight teams that earn direct qualification can then fixture their own bilateral one-day cricket in the year prior each World Cup, as part of their preparations.

"So the only possibility of an ODI series of less or more than three matches would be in that fourth year of the cycle leading into a World Cup, when those who have automatically qualified can play their own bilateral cricket."

The scheduling of T20 International matches will remain the domain of individual boards through bilateral or multi-team arrangements, although Sutherland indicated CA's preference will be to schedule those more strategically as lead-in fixtures to the biennial ICC World T20 tournament.

The next one of which will be held in Australia in 2020 – during February-March for the women’s tournament, and October-November for men’s competition.

As a consequence, the make-up of international fixtures for the next few Australia summers is likely to see five Tests, two ODI series of three matches each, and a pair of T20I games.

Australia's 2019-2023 schedule

2019-2020

Jun-Jul: 50-over World Cup in UK

Jul-Sep: 5 Tests v Eng (a) (Ashes)

Oct: 3 T20s v Bang (a)

Oct: 3 T20s v SL (h)

Nov-Dec: 3 T20s & 2 Tests v Pak (h)

Dec-Jan: 3 Tests & 3 ODIs v NZ (h)

Jan: 3 ODIs v Ind (a)

Feb: 2 Tests v Bang (a)

Feb-Mar: 3 ODIs & 3 T20s v SA (a)

Mar: 3 T20s v NZ (a)

2020-2021

Jun: 3 ODIs v Zim (h)

Jul: 3 ODIs & 3 T20s v Eng (a)

Oct: 3 T20s v WI (h)

Oct: 3 T20s v Ind (h)

Oct-Nov: 20-over World Cup in Aus

Nov: 1 Test v Afg (h)

Nov-Jan: 4 Tests v Ind (h)

Jan: 3 ODIs v Ind (h)

Jan: 3 ODIs v NZ (h)

Feb-Mar: 3 Tests v SA (a)

Mar: 3 T20s v NZ (a)

2021-2022

Jun: ICC Test Championship Final

Jun-Jul: 3 ODIs & 3 T20s v WI (a)

Oct: 3 T20s v SL (h)

Oct-Nov: 20-over World Cup in Ind

Nov-Jan: 5 Tests v Eng (h) (Ashes)

Jan-Feb: 3 ODIs & 3 T20s v SA (a)

Feb-Mar: 2 Tests, 3 ODIs & 3 T20s v Pak (a)

Mar: 3 ODIs v Afg (a)

2022-2023

Jun-Jul: 2 Tests & 5 ODIs v SL (a)

Sep: 1 Test v Afg (a)

Sep-Nov: 4 Tests & 3 T20s v Ind (a)

Nov: 3 T20s & 3 ODIs v Eng (h)

Nov-Dec: 2 Tests v WI (h)

Dec-Jan: 3 Tests v SA (h)

Jan: 3 ODIs v SA (h)

Feb: 3 ODIs v Ind (a)

Feb-Mar: 50-over World Cup in Ind