The news that Ireland is to take part in a tournament in Abu Dhabi involving the A teams from England, India, and Pakistan gives rise to an interesting question: now that Ireland, The Netherlands and Scotland (and indeed, the other countries in the ICC High Performance Programme) are allowed to play full ODIs, what is the status of other matches played by their full international teams?
The level of one-day cricket below ODIs, the equivalent of first-class status in the longer form of the game, is defined by List A, originally laid down by the Association of Cricket Historians and Statisticians. Unlike the first-class and ODI categories, it is not officially recognised by the ICC.
Its terms are currently as follows:
This means that the games played by the three European HPP countries in English domestic competitions such as the NatWest/C&G Trophy have always been included, but that their matches against touring Test sides have not.
The problem is that 'Other international matches' is unhelpfully broad, and indeed, the descriptions as a whole are much less precise than those which apply to first-class cricket. There, for example, many matches involving the 'A' sides of the Test countries, against each other or against other first-class opposition, are deemed to be first-class, as are their matches against Kenya.
Logically, then, since the HPP countries' matches in the InterContinental Cup have first-class status, their one-day games against national 'A' sides, and other first-class opposition such as English counties, Australian State teams or South African provincial sides, should fall within the definition of List A.
Perhaps we should even go a stage further.
We know that matches between Ireland, The Netherlands and Scotland in the European Championships will, at least for the next three years, count as full ODIs.
But what about these countries' matches against Denmark and Italy (or any other side that is promoted to Division I) in the same competition? At the moment they are betwixt-and-between, but maybe they, too, could reasonably be regarded as belonging on the next level down, which is List A. The same applies, even more strongly, to Ireland's game against the UAE in the Abu Dhabi tournament, since the UAE is one of the participants in the InterContinental Cup and thus has first-class status in that tournament.
There's an ambiguity, too, about the matches the Dutch will be playing on the South African leg of their African trip in March, against Northern Titans, Northerns and Gloucestershire: their opponents are full first-class teams, so that they might reasonably be regarded as 'first-class equivalent', but are likely to be excluded given the existing wording.
Not everyone in the community of cricket statisticians, apparently, was delighted with the ICC's expansion of ODI status, but it is a vital step in the development of cricket as a world sport. It's time to take the next step, and to give one-day games played by the HPP countries against first-class opposition the status they deserve. And perhaps for the ICC to take over the classification of one-day matches below the level of the ODI.