The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to approve plans for its long-awaited World Test Championship at a meeting in New Zealand this week, it was reported on Monday.
The sport's governing body has argued for years that a Test championship is needed to boost the five-day format's popularity as crowds and television viewers flock to the big-hitting Twenty20 version of the game.
But squabbling over formats and fears that some nations will be disadvantaged have twice stymied efforts to launch a league structure since 2010.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that plans for a nine-nation Test championship were now well advanced and the ICC was set to give the concept a green light on Friday at a meeting in Auckland.
It said the first edition of the competition would run over a two-year cycle beginning in 2019, culminating in a final between the top two teams at Lord's.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the league competition would give Test series a broader international “context”, making them more than stand-alone bilateral contests.
“You're also creating structure in such a way that you no longer have games without meaning. They are all part of a league championship,” he told the Herald.
Purists view Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport but it has struggled, particularly in Asia, as lucrative T20 competitions such as the Indian Premier League have caught the public's imagination.
A recent innovation designed to reverse the trend is the introduction of day-night Test matches, which moves playing sessions to more spectator-friendly hours.
The idea of four-day Test matches has also been floated, although traditionalists oppose the move.
The Herald reported that the ICC will also look at a major shake-up of one-day international fixtures at the Auckland meeting.
It said a 13-nation ODI league was being considered, which would operate on a three-year cycle with results affecting World Cup qualification.
Under the plans, the number of ODIs in a series would be capped at three, ending the lengthy five-match series that are currently part of the international fixture list.