Ireland and Afghanistan handed Cricket World Cup qualifying boost

Ireland and Afghanistan have been grouped with the International Cricket Council’s full member countries, allowing them the opportunity to qualify directly for the 2019 Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) tournament.

Having been listed alongside the 10 existing full members, the countries will be able to qualify for the event if they are among the top eight ranked ODI teams as of September 30, 2017. The bottom four teams in the qualifying rankings will play in the 10-team qualifier tournament in 2018 to determine the final two teams at the Cricket World Cup.

As a result of the reshuffle, Afghanistan and Ireland have been withdrawn from the World Cricket League Championship, to be replaced by Kenya and Nepal, which finished third and fourth, respectively, at the recent WCL Division Two event in Namibia. They will join Hong Kong, Namibia, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and UAE in the two-year World Cricket League Championship, which is scheduled to start in the middle of this year.

“Both Afghanistan and Ireland have excelled on and off the field in recent years, and this decision is a critical step forward to the ICC's aim of having more competitive teams in international cricket,” ICC chief executive David Richardson said. “The decision also provides even greater context to one-day international cricket, and provides a fully meritocratic pathway into ICC's Cricket World Cup and Champions Trophy events.”

In other news following the ICC’s board and committee meetings, Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been cleared to return to the sport ahead of schedule from his five-year ban for spot-fixing. Amir's ban was due to expire on September 2 this year, but he has been cleared to play domestic cricket in Pakistan after the ICC, Pakistan Cricket Board and Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the head of the ICC's Anti Corruption and Security Unit, approved his domestic return.