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New Zealand, Ireland could fill ECB void in 2021 if World Test Championship is cancelled

Contingency plans underway as England seek alternative opponents to fulfil fixtures

George Dobell
George Dobell
Boyd Rankin celebrates after dismissing Rory Burns  •  Getty Images

Boyd Rankin celebrates after dismissing Rory Burns  •  Getty Images

England could host Tests against New Zealand or Ireland in 2021 if the World Test Championship final is postponed.
ESPNcricinfo understands the ECB has held talks with NZC and Cricket Ireland about filling the gap in the schedule if the final does not go ahead as planned
The ECB is currently scheduled to host six Tests in 2021, at least five of which will involve England and India. But with uncertainty over the viability of holding the World Test Championship (WTC) final at Lord's in June as planned, the ECB has explored contingency plans. Those plans involve inviting at least one other team to England to play a Test or two.
"We have had a level of engagement in relation to the possibility of a Test in England in 2021," Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, told ESPNcricinfo. "It's not in the current FTP so we fully understand it can only work around ECB's busy schedule. We're happy to be patient until those discussions progress and we'll manage our expectations accordingly."
Indications at present suggest the ICC is keen to press on with plans to hold the WTC final as planned. But with six series already postponed and doubts over the viability of several more, doubts remain over the fair allocation of points from those contests. There is also continuing uncertainty surrounding the viability of series in light on the Covid-19 pandemic with cases in the UK currently rising.
While Sri Lanka and Pakistan are both scheduled to play limited-overs games in England in 2021, their boards have confirmed to ESPNcricinfo they have not, at this stage, held discussions about adding Tests to their tour schedules.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo