Afghanistan and Ireland have been approved as Full Members by the ICC, meaning they have become cricket’s 11th and 12th Test-playing nations. This was signed off on by the ICC Board in London on Thursday, during the ICC’s AGM.
Afghanistan and Ireland’s boards had applied to the ICC to have their status upgraded from Associates, and this was put to vote at the meeting on Thursday and unanimously supported.
Ireland first gained ODI status in 2005 after finishing runners-up in the ICC Trophy tournament, which they hosted, to gain their first World Cup berth. Two years later they scored a shock upset of Pakistan on St Patrick’s Day in Jamaica and they’ve never looked back, qualifying for two subsequent World Cups in which they defeated England and West Indies to further press their case that they could maintain competitiveness with other Test nations.
Afghanistan’s rise has been even sharper having first gained ODI status in 2009 with a sixth-place finish at that year’s World Cup Qualifier in South Africa. It followed three consecutive promotions over the previous year when they began in Division Five of the World Cricket League. Like Ireland, they have demonstrated the talent to stand toe-to-toe with Full Member nations, securing three straight ODI and T20I series wins over Zimbabwe as well as a win over eventual champion West Indies at the 2016 World T20. Most recently they drew their maiden ODI series in the West Indies.
However, the vote is not just an endorsement of each country’s respective on field talents but a seal of approval for efforts made in recent years to build up their domestic structures. In the last three years, both countries have started a multi-day competition with each receiving first-class designation from the ICC in the last year, a harbinger of Thursday’s Full Member affirmation.