When England and Australia step out onto the field at Edgbaston on Thursday for the first Ashes Test, it will mark a momentous day in world cricket. From Thursday onwards, Test cricket will no longer be just a bilateral affair. The first Ashes test will mark the start of the widely-anticipated World Test Championship (WTC).
The WTC has been in the works for some time now with the International Cricket Council (ICC) determined provide a much-needed boost to Test cricket.
The WTC, involving the top nine test nations competing in a league across two years, has been designed to give more meaning to test series.
"The World Test Championship will bring relevance and context to bilateral test cricket over the next two years, creating a pinnacle event for the five-day format, just as the World Cups for men and women do in the ODI and T20I formats," ICC General Manager Geoff Allardice said in a statement.
So here is all you need to know about this latest innovation in world cricket.
World Test Championship Rules
- Nine top-ranked teams will play three series each at home and away over two years to determine the best test team in the world. The nine teams will figure in 27 series with the champion decided after 72 Test matches.
- Points will be awarded for every game
- The two teams that top the points table will play in a one-off World Test Championship Final in June 2021 at Lord's with the winner crowned World Test Champions
- There will be a new winner after every two-year cycle.
- Each series will comprise a minimum of two and maximum of five tests, with the ICC also allowing matches to be played outside the WTC.
- Only matches previously identified as part of the WTC will count towards the championship
- Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies will compete in the first cycle
- Three remaining teams - Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe - can play tests but those will not be part of the WTC
- The second WTC cycle is scheduled from June 2021 to April 2023
- There are 120 points on offer for each series and will be distributed over the number of games
- For example, a two-test series will mean 60 points for each match while a three-test series will award 40 points each
- The five-test Ashes series will award 24 points each
- A tied match will be worth half the points available while a draw will fetch a third of the points.
- If the final ends in a tie or a draw, the two teams will be named joint champions