England already planning to play Test cricket against Ireland

ECB chairman Giles Clarke says contingencies will be included in new FTP schedule

Malahide enjoyed a full house for the ODI meeting between Ireland and England in September 2013. Photograph:   Rowland White/Inpho/Presseye

Malahide enjoyed a full house for the ODI meeting between Ireland and England in September 2013. Photograph: Rowland White/Inpho/Presseye


Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), hopes that a historic first Test between England and Ireland could be one of the many consequences of the radical changes to international cricket that have effectively been ratified in Dubai this week.

As the dust settled on the International Cricket Council’s quarterly board meeting, after the first day of which delegates from four countries raised doubts over official claims that the proposals being championed by Clarke with support from Australia and India had been “unanimously approved”, it became increasingly clear that the bulk of the changes will almost certainly go through next month.

Bangladesh, the most voluble of the four rebels on Tuesday, already appear to have fallen into line, and the ICC president, Alan Isaac, again stressed at a close-of-meeting press conference on Wednesday that “agreement to the principles” of the proposals was “unanimous”.

There is still some uncertainty over how and even whether Test cricket will be opened up to associate members such as Ireland after opposition from some full members such as Bangladesh to the introduction of a two-tier system with promotion to and relegation from an elite league of eight.

But Clarke remains sufficiently hopeful to reveal that the ECB have already cleared a space for a possible Test against Ireland in a Future Tours Programme (FTP) which will run for more than a decade and is ready to be announced within the next few weeks.

“If Ireland do qualify for Test cricket, England will guarantee that we play them,” said the ECB chairman. “We have already looked at that possibility when constructing our FTP.”

Ireland have a stated goal of securing Test status by 2020 irrespective of any new structure.

The construction of a new FTP to run until 2023 was one of many issues that provoked confusion and some resentment when details of the new plans leaked out.

England are ready to go well beyond that, with agreements thought to be in place for home series against India in 2026 and Australia the following year. But the release of a comprehensive programme of tours and series involving all nations for the eight years from 2015-23 could come as early as next month.

Countries will be free to make bilateral arrangements between themselves, a flexibility that has already been welcomed by West Indies, whose board issued a statement predicting an increase of “at least 100%” in revenue compared to the last eight-year cycle from 2006-14.

The decision to retain the lucrative Champions Trophy, which was to have been scrapped to make way for a new World Test Championship, will represent a further financial boost to struggling nations.

(Guardian Service)

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