HARARE – Zimbabwe has been granted the rights to host the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, the ICC board announced yesterday following their meeting in New Zealand.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) had submitted their bid earlier this year and had to fend off competition from the United Arab Emirates and a joint bid from Scotland and Ireland.
The qualifying tournament is scheduled for March next year and will pit 10 teams which will vie for the two places up for grabs at the 2019 Cricket World Cup to be held in England and Wales.
“It’s official! Zimbabwe will host the @ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in March 2018!,” ZC said on their official Twitter handle yesterday following the decision.
The tournament will be held at Harare Sports Club, Queens Sports Club, CFX Academy, Bulawayo Athletic Club and in Kwekwe Sports Club which were inspected by the ICC earlier this year.
Initially the qualifying tournament was scheduled to be hosted by Bangladesh but in March this year, the ICC announced it will be held elsewhere after the Tigers qualified for the tournament automatically.
So far West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea are the six teams that will be taking part in the qualifiers.
At least four more spots are up for grabs with teams taking part in the ICC World Cricket League Championship still with a chance to qualify.
As a double-reward for ZC, the ICC has also granted the greenlight for Zimbabwe to host the 2018 ICC board meeting in April.
At the same meeting, the ICC announced an interesting new development with the introduction of a nine-nation Test Championship in a bid to preserve the five-day format’s status following the rapid growth of Twenty20.
“Our priority was to develop (a) structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena,” ICC chief David Richardson said.
The Test league will start in 2019 and see nine teams play six series over two years — three home and three away. It will culminate in a final between the two top teams at Lord’s.
The ICC has argued for years that a Test Championship is needed to boost the format’s popularity as crowds and TV viewers flock to the fast-paced, big-hitting Twenty20 version of the game.
It first appointed a committee to examine the concept back in 1998. But squabbling over formats, and fears that some nations will be disadvantaged, have twice stymied efforts to launch a league structure since 2010.
“Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on,” ICC chaiperson Shashank Manohar said.
The nine nations in the competition are Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies.
…gets four-day test approval
ZIMBABWE will feature in a historic four-day Test match trial against South Africa after the ICC gave their greenlight to the Boxing Day match during its board meeting that ended in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday.
The match will run from December 26 to 29 at the St George’s Oval in Port Elizabeth in the first official game of the new format which is expected to run through until the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
ICC chief executive David Richardson believes the trial could come in handy for the lowly ranked Test teams as well as the newest additions in Ireland and Afghanistan.
“The trial starts immediately, probably with the first one Zimbabwe playing South Africa from Boxing Day in South Africa and the trial will run up until the Cricket World Cup in 2019,” Richardson said.
“The trial won’t be compulsory; it will be by arrangement between participating teams in a particular series. So whoever wants to play it can play it.
“The real value is, teams like Ireland and Afghanistan, even Zimbabwe who have not been at their best. They will be able to explore the opportunity of playing four-day Test matches. Teams visiting, for example, South Africa, might be more likely to play Zimbabwe in a four-day Test than they would in a five-day Test. So, I think it has a number of advantages.”
The ICC believes that the four-day Tests could bring back the lost fervour at a time that most spectators and broadcasters prefer Twenty20 cricket.
“Innovation is absolutely fundamental to the future of the game,” David Peever, chairperson of Cricket Australia and a heavyweight on the ICC board, said.
“So the (Test) League is part of that, day-night Test cricket is part of that, pink balls, all of that stuff. All the changes that are being made are really important.
“Trialling four-day cricket in this way is very sensible. What many fans want to see is a result, and a result in a shorter number of days. So, I think the trial is really important and you never know if the trial is successful, as we expect it will be.
“It’s probably then a good feed-in to the future, to a programme, and how that’s carried out, because we’ll be in a position then, for more points to be able to be accumulated through wins rather than draws.’
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe selectors have announced a 14-man Zim A squad to take on West Indies in a three-day warm-up match starting tomorrow at Queens Sports Club.
Zim A Squad: Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Tarisai Musakanda, Ryan Burl, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami, Peter Moor (capt), Nathan Waller, Donald Tiripano, Michael Chinouya, Nyasha Mayayo, Brandon Mavuta, William Mashinge.