The International Cricket Council officially inaugurated the World Test Championship (WTC) on August 1 coinciding with the first Ashes Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston.
The tournament has been launched in a bid to revive interest in the conventional five-day format and add context to the plethora of bilateral series.
The Championship envisioned to serve as the World Cup equivalent of Test cricket has been in the pipeline for almost a decade and was originally planned to replace the Champions Trophy in 2013.
Eventually, following several cancellations, the league has been finalized with the consent of the ICC members.
The concept of the ICC Test Championship was drafted to expand viewership regarding the grueling five-day cricket action.
It also intends to incentivize teams to assess each encounter on its merit since every result has a bearing on the position of a Test-playing nation in the table.
The existing format of awarding the Test Championship mace annually to the top-ranked side possessing the most number of rating points lacks the compact structure of a competition which grants a level playing field to all participants.
The WTC comprises of top nine nations clashing with each other over a period of two years after which the top two teams in the points table meet in the final at Lord's in June 2021 to decide the ultimate victor.
Each country is scheduled to play three home series and three away series consisting of two, three, four or five Tests.
A total of 71 series will take place during the two-year cycle with 27 series scheduled between the participants.
Nine of the twelve full-member nations will partake in the tournament: India, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh.
The Test matches involving Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland will not be counted towards the final calculation of the points but they are expected to be involved in the next edition of the Championship.
A team can acquire as many as 120 points in a Test series regardless of the number of games and this sum is proportionally divided for each match's result.
A game in a two-Test series will carry 60 points while in a five-match series, this tally comes down to 24 points.
This explains why Sri Lanka currently rank number one on the WTC table after emerging victorious over New Zealand in the first game at Galle even though Australia also completed a comprehensive 251-run win in the Ashes series opener.
A drawn encounter will see each team register one-third of the total amount of points received in case of a triumph.
A tie, a rarity in Test cricket, sees both teams achieve half of the points for a win.
Moreover, the ICC has introduced a strict rule surrounding the issue of slow over-rates by imposing the restriction of subtracting two points from a side's total for every over they are behind at the end of a match.
In the event of the final ending in a draw or a tie, both teams will be declared joint champions.
The group phase which lasts for two years will see matches being conducted in almost all the countries, provided the security situation permits the scheduling of the series. Most of these series fall under the planned ICC Future Tour Program (FTP). The full itinerary of the World Test Championship is as follows:
July-August-September 2019: Five Ashes Tests away in England
November 2019: Two home Tests against Pakistan
December 2019-January 2020: Three home Tests against New Zealand
February 2020: Two away Tests against Bangladesh
November-December 2020: Four home Tests against India
February-March 2021: Three away Tests against South Africa
July-August 2019: Two away Tests in Sri Lanka
December 2019-January 2020: Three away Tests in Australia
February 2020: Two home Tests against India
August-September 2020: Two away Tests in Bangladesh
November-December 2020: Three home Tests against Windies
December 2020: Two home Tests against Pakistan
July-August 2019: Two away Tests in West Indies
October-November 2019: Three home Tests against South Africa
November 2019: Two home Tests against Bangladesh
February 2020: Two away Tests in New Zealand
December 2020: Four away Tests in Australia
January-February 2021: Five home Tests against England
October 2019: Two home Tests against Sri Lanka
November-December 2019: Two away Tests in Australia
January-February 2020: Two home Tests against Bangladesh
July-August 2020: Three away Tests in England
December 2020: Two away Tests in New Zealand
January-February 2021: Two home Tests against South Africa
July-August 2019: Five Ashes Tests at home against Australia
December 2019-January 2020: Four away Tests in South Africa
March 2020: Two away Tests in Sri Lanka
June-July 2020: Three home Tests against Windies
July-August 2020: Three home Tests against Pakistan
January-February 2021: Five away Tests in India
July-August 2019: Two home Tests against New Zealand
October 2019: Two away Tests against Pakistan
March-April 2020: Two home Tests against England
July-August 2020: Three home Tests against Bangladesh
January 2021: Two away Tests in South Africa
February-March 2021: Two away Tests in West Indies
October 2019: Three away Tests in India
December 2019-January 2020 – Four home Tests against England
July-August 2020: Two away Tests in West Indies
January 2021: Two home Tests against Sri Lanka
January-February 2021: Two away Tests against Pakistan
February-March 2021: Three home Tests against Australia
July-August 2019: Two home Tests against India
June-July 2020: Three away Tests in England
July-August 2020: Two home Tests against South Africa
November-December 2020: Three away Tests in New Zealand
January-February 2021: Three away Tests in Bangladesh
February-March 2021: Two home Tests in Sri Lanka
November 2019: Two away Tests in India
January-February 2020: Two away Tests in Pakistan
February 2020: Two home Tests against Australia
July-August 2020: Three away Tests in Sri Lanka
August-September 2020: Two home Tests against New Zealand
January-February 2021: Three home Tests against Windies