The ICC confirmed today that the winner of the ongoing World Cricket League Championship would join the 12 Full member countries in a 2-year ODI league from 2020. Plans for the league, together with a 9-team Test Championship, were agreed in principle at the ICC meeting at Auckland this week.
Despite ambiguous statements following the ICC's previous meeting in London in June, and doubts raised in these pages, it was confirmed that the 13th spot in the ODI competition would indeed be awarded to the winner of the WCLC. The Netherlands currently lead the competition with one round remaining, enjoying a 2 point lead over nearest rivals Papua New Guinea.
The final round of the eight-team league will be played simultaneously in the United Arab Emirates in early December, with the Dutch needing two wins over Namibia to be assured of retaining the top spot. Also in contention for the title are Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, who face each other in their final two games, and Scotland, who will face Kenya.
PNG need only win one more match than the Dutch overtake them, as total wins, rather than net run rate, is the first tie-breaker in case of sides finishing on equal points. Hong Kong will need to win their remaining match against Nepal tomorrow, as well as both their matches against PNG, whilst hoping the Netherlands lose twice and Scotland drop at least one game against Kenya. Finally Scotland need two wins over Kenya, with the Netherlands losing twice and PNG and Hong Kong sharing honours in their two games.
The 13th side in the ODI league can expect to play eight series of three matches against full member opposition over the two year period, four at home and four away, with the league also acting as a qualification pathway for the 2023 World Cup. It is not as yet clear how many sides will qualify directly from the league, though early reports suggest six or seven sides will progress with the remainder contesting a qualifying tournament with top sides from the next World Cricket League.
According to a draft schedule which emerged following the meeting in June, the 13th side can expected series against Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa, Zimabwe, England, Ireland, Afghanistan and New Zealand. Following the 2023 World Cup, it is envisaged that the league will be expanded to a three year schedule with each team playing all of the others either home or away.