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World Test Championship: The new cricket competition designed to re-energize the longest form of the game

Lisa Micheal 5 Jul 29
Virat Kohli , Captain of India directs his players during the Semi-Final match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between India and New Zealand at Old Trafford on July 09, 2019 in Manchester, England.

England and Australia will begin the latest edition of one of cricket's oldest and fiercest rivalries this week, when the two teams fight it out for The Ashes, but this Test series will also mark the start of a new era for the sport.

The inaugural International Cricket Council (ICC) World Test Championship beginning on August 1 will see nine competing nations see points allocated for the winner of each match in a series, meaning there's something to play for even after a series has been decided.

"We obviously always go into a Test match with the intention of winning, but it will be very interesting to see how the dynamic of matches and series changes with points on the line, especially as qualification for the final gets closer," managing director for England men's cricket Ashley Giles said at the launch of its campaign on Monday.

The World Test Championship has been a long-term ambition of the ICC in order to preserve the traditional format of the game.

After two postponements in 2013 and 2017, this version will see 72 matches contested between August 2019 and June 2021. The two best-performing teams will then compete in a final to be played at Lord's in London.

"We are awaiting the ICC World Test Championship with great enthusiasm as it adds context to the longest format of the game," India's skipper, Virat Kohli, said in a statement on Monday.

"Test cricket is very challenging and coming out on top in the traditional form is always highly satisfying. The Indian team has done really well in recent years and will be fancying its chances in the championship."

India, currently ranked as the world's best Test team, will start its campaign with two Test matches in the West Indies at the end of August. Kohli and his team will then play against South Africa, Bangladesh and England at home and have further tours of Australia and New Zealand.

England's Chris Woakes celebrates after the fall of the last wicket on the third day of the first cricket Test match between England and Ireland at Lord's cricket ground in London on July 26, 2019.

Each Test series offers 120 points, split equally among each of the matches, with points on offer for winning or drawing the match. Each nation will play six series in the two-year competition, with the final held in June 2021.

"Test match cricket remains a key priority for the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB)," Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive Officer, said Monday.

Harrison added the ECB would continue to be committed to developing a "thriving first-class game" in England and Wales by investing £450 million ($554 million) into the county network to help develop the next generation of England Test stars.

The five-Test Ashes series is sold out across all venues in England, as were all games at the recent one-day Cricket World Cup hosted by the same country.

That is not always the case with other matches around the world. However, with the rise of Twenty20 cricket leagues including the Indian Premier League, cricket's governing body will be hoping this Test championship can keep fans engaged with the longest form of the sport.