The World Test Championship final is set to be played over six days next summer with the Ageas Bowl lined up as a potential surprise venue.
The match seems certain to go ahead with India pushing for the final to be played and the International Cricket Council able to monetise it by selling rights to the match, which are not included in their existing deal with Star Sports.
It means England could play eight Test matches next summer if they make the final. Telegraph Sport understands New Zealand are close to agreeing a two Test tour of England next summer, which would take place before the planned five-match series against India.
As Telegraph Sport revealed earlier this week, the England & Wales Cricket Board have held preliminary talks with a number of countries about a possible tour next summer. It has now emerged that New Zealand Cricket are in advanced discussions, and the expectation is that a two-match series will be confirmed.
A tour by New Zealand holds obvious appeal for the ECB. New Zealand have not toured England since 2015, when they drew a thrilling two-match series 1-1, so a trip to England is overdue. New Zealand have also long showed themselves to be a formidable Test side, including recording 1-0 home victories against England in both 2018 and 2019.
New Zealand are already due to tour Europe next summer, for rearranged Cricket Super League one-day internationals against Ireland. They may also play Scotland and the Netherlands on this tour.
The extra series would also be valuable income for Test grounds struggling financially due to the pandemic, if crowds are allowed to return by next summer. The counties are still waiting for the final allocation of venues for the New Zealand series and a rejigged fixture list. Many have already promised to rollover unused tickets from this summer to next when they are desperate for crowds to return.
The World Test Championship has been hit by a a number of series cancelled by the pandemic but the ICC is considering a solution of splitting points between teams for matches not played.
India and Australia are currently in the top two spots and likely to qualify for the final with England third, and New Zealand fourth.
It has always been assumed the final will be played at Lord’s but the Ageas Bowl has emerged as an alternative venue in case covid restrictions are still in place. Lord’s is still the most likely home for the final but if covid restrictions are a problem then the two teams would be able to stay at the Ageas Bowl on site hotel, reducing complications over quarantine and ease of enforcing biosecure bubble protocols.
The ICC cricket committee will meet next month to discuss the final. Playing the match over six days would take the English weather out of the equation and increase the chances of a positive result. A drawn final would not be a satisfactory outcome after two years of matches leading up to a showpiece final.
Six day Tests have not been played for 15 years. The last time was when the ICC held a super Test between Australia and a World XI in Sydney in October 2005. The six day match lasted only four days with Australia winning by more than 200 runs.