CRICKET Ireland has responded cautiously to the announcement of sweeping reforms by the International Cricket Council after a board meeting in Singapore early yesterday. ICC trumpeted that it was “breaking the glass ceiling” which had barred the entry of the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan from playing test cricket.

It announced that “the winner of the next ICC Intercontinental Cup will be entitled to take part in a play-off against the bottom-ranked Full Member and, if successful, obtain Test status.” Ireland has won four of the last five Intercontinental Cups, the most recent in Dubai in December.

“The statement isn’t radically different to the original proposal,” Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom told the Sunday Independent. “It copperfastens the principle that the leading associate plays the lowest ranked full member. But what it doesn’t make clear is whether the Intercontinental Cup will include Zimbabwe and Bangladesh or not.

“The long-term benefits are that it could bring us closer to our long term goal of playing test cricket.”

The meeting, which formalised the power-grab by the “big 3” of India, Australia and England, also promised “enhanced support” for the leading associates “if revenue targets are achieved.”

“Our current expectations are of around $16-17m in the next funding period,” Deutrom explained. “But with Zimbabwe likely to receive $75-76m there’s a danger that a large competitive gap could open up. We trust the gap will not be as wide as that between teams ranked so closely together.”

The meeting also cancelled the proposed World Test Championship but replaced it with a biennial Champions Trophy which will be open to the top eight ranked ODI countries. Ireland has been as high as 9th in these rankings but currently lies 11th.