Test cricket will have an official World Championship for the first time from 2013. In a decision yesterday that was as significant as it was overdue, the ICC also said that all Test matches should be played as part of a league.
The importance of the announcement after a meeting of the chief executives in Cape Town should not be underestimated. It might yet save Test cricket. With audiences declining, especially in the subcontinent, and most matches considered to be lacking context for modern generations, the ICC knew something, indeed anything, had to be done.
If this was an example of cricket acting as if it knows how to exist in the 21st century, there was an illustration of precisely the opposite at Old Trafford, one of the three venues where the County Championship is being tightly contested. Having waited until 4pm for play to start because of heavy rain, it was suspended again 90 minutes later because the sun was shining in the batsmen's eyes.
With episodes like that, cricket may be beyond salvation but the ICC is trying. The working party recommendations will be considered by the ICC's full board next month. In theory it is possible that they might reject them, in practice it is unthinkable unless they want the game to be reduced to a permanent round of one-day cricket.
"Restructuring international cricket is a significant strategic challenge and one that must be dealt with," said Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive. "Achieving balance and unanimous agreement is not easy but it is a very important piece of work that requires a strategic response."
From a date yet to be determined, all Tests will be played as part of a league. Every four years the four top teams will take part in a Championship play-off. If it were to be held tomorrow under the present complicated rankings system, England, the only place where the format remains vibrant, would not qualify.
The ICC also intend to outlaw bland pitches of the kind which have led to too many stultifying contests recently. There are also plans for a one-day league and a ten-team format for the World Cup from 2015, which should considerably reduce the tournament from its present 50-day marathon.
If this was all welcome, the halting of play by the setting sun in Manchester was most unwanted. Notts, chasing the title, had reached 85 for 2 when it grew too bright for their batsmen. Hardly the light on the road to Damascus.
Marcus Trescothick tried to take the match at Durham by its scruff to help Somerset's romantic challenge for a first title with a bristling 75 from 84 balls. At stumps Somerset's bonus points had sent them top, but the pennant could still go to any place of three.
Pakistan bowler Wahab Riaz was questioned by police yesterday as part of investigations into match-rigging as was unconditionally released according to solicitors. His three suspended colleagues, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, have been given more time to respond.Reuse content