ZIMBABWE’S chances of making it to the International Cricket Council (ICC) 2019 World Cup in England and Wales received a massive boost yesterday after the country was awarded the rights to host the qualifiers in March next
By Kevin Mapasure
The decision was announced yesterday by the ICC following their board meeting in Auckland, New Zealand.
Zimbabwe beat competition from the United Arab Emirates as well as a joint bid between Scotland and Ireland to stage the tournament, where two nations will join the hosts and the top seven on the ICC one-day internationals (ODIs) rankings.
The nations that have sealed qualification include Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Of the older full members, Zimbabwe and West Indies missed out on qualification and they will be joined by the newer full members Ireland and Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe will host nine other nations, where only two will qualify for the World Cup.
The tournament was initially scheduled to take place in Bangladesh. However, ICC had to find a new host because Bangladesh qualified automatically for the World Cup, and thus would not be participating in this tournament.
The bottom four teams in the ICC ODI Championship ranking will be joined by the top four teams from the 2015–17 ICC World Cricket League Championship and the two finalists of the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Two for the qualifying tournament.
This means that at most two associate teams can qualify for the World Cup or none if beaten by the Test playing nations.
There was yet more good news from the Auckland meeting where it was also announced that South Africa and Zimbabwe’s Boxing Day day and night Test had received the board’s blessings and will go ahead as a trial.
David Richardson, the ICC chief executive said it was important to look at the alternatives as well apart from providing more context to various Test series.
“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,” he revealed.
“However, throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket, it became clear that while 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 trailed 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.”
Zimbabwe last played South Africa in a Test match in 2014, where they lost by nine wickets.
The South Africa Test match comes after Zimbabwe plays two matches in the same format against West Indies in Bulawayo.
The first Test commences on October 21 at Queens Sports Club while the second starts on November 2.
It emerged from the ICC board meeting that Zimbabwe is in danger of getting relegated to a newly-formed second-tier division of Test cricket.
The meeting agreed that a nine team Test league be formed and to commence in 2019.
The lowest ranked nation from the current Test table, which at the moment is Zimbabwe, will joining Afghanistan and Ireland in the second tier league.
There is room for a return to the top league as Test cricket will now be contested in a relegation/promotion basis.
The Test series league will see nine teams play six series over two years — three home and three away — with each having a minimum of two Tests and a maximum of five and all matches being played over five days culminating in a World Test League Championship
ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said: “I would like to congratulate our Members on reaching this agreement and putting the interests of the development of the game first. Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on.
“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.”