Afghanistan's progress towards Test status and Full Membership at the ICC took a big step forward after the country's domestic four-day and Twenty20 tournaments were awarded first-class and List A status respectively. The decision was among those announced by the ICC on Saturday, following meetings of the governing body's Chief Executives Committee (CEC) and Board.
"We appreciate the decision of CEC and ICC board," Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo after the decision was announced. "This recognition gives us strength to move forward and to become a competitive Test side in our strategic targeted time frame."
The multi-day tournament initially began as a three-day competition before moving to a four-day structure in 2014, now known as the Ahmad Shah Abdali tournament, with five regional teams competing - Amo, Band-e-Amir, Boost, Mis Ainak and Speen Ghar. A sixth team, Kabul Green, joined the competition in 2016. The teams play each other twice before the two sides at the top of the table play for the end of season championship. The competition runs from September through December.
The domestic Twenty20 tournament, known as the Shpageeza Cricket League, also features the same six teams in a single round-robin format before semi-finals and a final. Afghanistan does not currently have a domestic 50-over competition.
The move to give Afghanistan's domestic competitions first-class and List A status comes four months after Ireland's three-team interprovincial competition was given the same status elevation by the ICC.
The outcomes from the ICC's meetings pointed to a 12-team Test structure - divided into a top nine and bottom three - another strong indication that both Afghanistan and Ireland will be the next two countries given the opportunity to play Tests. However, even if they do get Test status, it is not yet clear if Full Membership will follow; there has supposedly been talk of decoupling Test status from Full Membership.