Lord's set to host World Test Championship final, may lose 2021 Afghanistan Test
Lord's may have to give up one of two bilateral Test matches it is scheduled to host in 2021 if the ICC is to get its wish for a showpiece World Test Championship (WTC) final at an iconic venue after the fashion of the Centenary Tests of 1977 and 1980.
Those matches, between England and Australia at the MCG and Lord's, were part of the inspiration for the concept of a Test Championship, culminating in a gala one-off match to determine the best team in the world over the preceding two years. Lord's, widely known as 'the home of cricket', might be viewed as an obvious venue for the final and is understood to be the preferred location by some at the ICC.
But Lord's is already scheduled to host two Tests in the English summer of 2021. While only one of them, a match between England and India, is currently confirmed, it is anticipated the ground will also host Afghanistan's first Test against England earlier in the season.
Were Lord's to be allocated the Test Championship final, one of those matches - probably the Afghanistan Test; it is hard to envisage any ground giving up the right to host an India Test - would almost certainly need to go elsewhere. Edgbaston, who are not scheduled to host a Test in 2021, would be one obvious candidate should such a game become available, though The Oval, the oldest Test ground in England, and Old Trafford, would be among those keen to host the WTC final.
Both the ICC and member nations are hopeful that the WTC will inject far broader interest into Test cricket beyond its strongholds in England and Australia, where the prestigious nature of the fight for the Ashes has long defined the long-from game in both countries.
Other nations, particularly the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies, have struggled to maintain interest in Test cricket in part because they lack the chance to lift a trophy in a single defining moment as world champions - something afforded to teams in both the ODI and Twenty20 formats.
England has been chosen as the venue for the final in part because of the popularity for Test cricket in the country and the hope that the grounds would be full even if England are not playing.