The first-ever Future Tours Programme featuring a World Test Championship and a ODI Qualification League has been released by the ICC's Full Members, and will span a five-year period from 2018 to 2023. The nine top-ranked Test nations will slug it out for the Test Championship over two two-year cycles starting in June 2019, with a six-series league phase followed by a final featuring the top two sides. The ODI league will begin in 2020 and feature the twelve Test-playing nations and Netherlands, the 13th ranked side which qualified from the World Cricket League Championship. The top eight sides from this league will qualify automatically for the 2023 World Cup.
Not all matches will count towards the Test Championship and the ODI League, and teams will play bilateral series whose outcomes will not affect these competitions. So, who will play whom? And when, and where? Here's the complete schedule for each nation.
Australia's inaugural World Test Championship hopes could hinge on a trip to South Africa in 2021, a tour with added context considering the recent ball-tampering saga. Nearly two-thirds of their Tests over the next five-year cycle will come against India, England or South Africa, a period in which they will host Afghanistan for the first time in a one-off Test in 2020 and play New Zealand in a Boxing Day Test at the MCG for the first time since 1987. Both the World T20 years - 2020 and 2021 - see a significant increase in the number of T20 internationals, with as many as 24 scheduled over the two-year period.
Bangladesh will kick off their World Test Championship campaign with two-Test series against India and Pakistan away, before a home series against Australia in February 2020. Just four of their 18 Test series in the next five years will last longer than two Tests, in a schedule packed with white-ball fixtures. There is not a single trip to Australia - not even for a limited-overs tour - until the end of the upcoming FTP, and by the end of it, Bangladesh would have gone 15 years without a single bilateral fixture down under.
If there's a sense that England's priorities in the past four-year cycle have veered from Tests to one-day cricket, then the message from the new FTP is that the longer form will be back in vogue after the 2019 World Cup. In particular, there's the inclusion of two more five-Test series against India - one away in early 2021 and the other at home only six months later - alongside the 2019 home Ashes and the next Ashes tour in 2021-22. A four-Test tour of South Africa in 2019-20 is another of England's World Test Championship highlights.
India are the only side outside the Ashes rivalry to feature in five-Test series in the next FTP cycle, playing England twice over the next four years. In this cycle, they will contest a total of 102 internationals at home, with every Test-playing nation except Ireland and Pakistan touring India before May 2023. In all, they will play over 200 internationals, the most by an international side over this five-year cycle.
New Zealand will start their Test Championship campaign in Sri Lanka in August 2019, followed by a bumper 2019-20 home summer featuring England, Australia and India. A Boxing Day Test at Melbourne after 32 years is among the other highlights in a five-year cycle during which they will play only five three-Test series and eleven two-Test series. They will also host Netherlands for a bilateral three-ODI series at home for the first time in 2021-22.
Pakistan begin their World Test Championship in familiar style in October 2019: with a two-Test series at home against Sri Lanka. Those two Tests will be part of 40 they play in this new FTP (including three that they've already played in Ireland and England). They don't, of course, have a single series against India but another complicated geopolitical relationship with a neighbour - Afghanistan - will be given an airing - they play three ODIs in Afghanistan's home ground in September 2021 as part of the ODI league.
South Africa's Test Championship starts with a high-profile season in which they will play Tests in India, host England for a full tour and Australia for white-ball matches. The England series is the only four-Test engagement on the FTP. In total, South Africa play 38 Tests, split as 21 at home and 17 away, including three-Test series against India and Australia. The summer of 2022-23 should see South Africa play their first festive season tour in Australia since 2008-09, which could bring a return to the MCG and SCG. The other Test tours are two-Test encounters against Sri Lanka and West Indies at home and Pakistan and New Zealand away. South Africa will play 67 ODIs and 56 T20s, including a home ODI series against Netherlands and away in Ireland, but do not have any fixtures scheduled against Zimbabwe or Afghanistan.
A feature of Sri Lanka's schedule, at present, is that there is a dearth of home Tests. There is only one home Test series - against Bangladesh - in the two years between July 2020, and June 2022. It is possible that SLC will organise tours to fill these gaps closer to the time, as they have done in the past. The busiest season for Sri Lanka appears to be 2019-2020, in which they play bilateral series against nine international sides, including Tests against five of them.
West Indies are playing 43 Tests in the two FTP cycles, which clearly underlines a vision where they want to harness the fast-emerging young talent and regain the lost footing in the longer format. Their 143 limited-overs games are the second-highest in the field, only behind India's 152, with the highlight being the 12-month period leading to the 2023 World Cup, where they play a whopping 33 bilateral ODIs and T20Is against nine different nations.