DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The winners of the Intercontinental Cup for non-test playing nations will get a chance to earn test status from 2018 under new plans announced by the International Cricket Council on Thursday.

An ICC board meeting decided that the winners of the 2017 Cup and the world's lowest-ranked test team will play two matches of five days each on a home and away basis in a new series called the ICC Test Challenge. Starting in 2018, it will be held every four years.

If the Cup holders beat the test side, the former ICC associate member will become the 11th test-playing nation — with the losers still retaining their test status.

Ireland and Afghanistan are the top contenders to have a shot at the test status in four years' time. Reigning champion Ireland has won the Intercontinental Cup four times since it started in 2004 while Afghanistan and Scotland have also won the event one time each.

"The ICC Test Challenge now opens the door for associate members to play test cricket and in doing so gives even greater context to the ICC Intercontinental Cup which will now be a pathway to test cricket," ICC chief executive David Richardson said.

Over the next eight years, two Intercontinental Cups are planned with the first to run from 2015-17 and the second in between 2019-21. The second ICC Test Challenge is planned in 2022.

Meanwhile, the board also decided to retain the same format for the 2016 World Twenty20 in India after successfully organizing the event in Bangladesh.

The top eight full members on the Twenty20 rankings as on April 30 will automatically qualify for the main round of 2016 event.

The remaining two full members will compete with six other qualifiers after next year's qualifying tournament in Ireland and Scotland.