Test matches are the highest level of cricket, although, statistically, their data form part of first-class cricket. Matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined by the International Cricket Council. As of June 2017 , twelve national teams have Test status, the most recently promoted being Afghanistan and Ireland on 22 June 2017. Zimbabwe's Test status was voluntarily suspended, because of poor performances between 2006 and 2011; it returned to competition in August 2011.
In January 2014, during an ICC meeting in Dubai, the pathway for new potential Test nations was laid out with the winners of the next round of the ICC Intercontinental Cup playing a 5-day match against the bottom ranked Test nation. If the Associate team defeats the Test nation, then they could be added as the new Test country and granted full membership.
A list of matches, defined as "Tests", was first drawn up by Australian Clarence Moody in the mid-1890s. Representative matches played by simultaneous England touring sides of 1891–92 (in Australia and South Africa) and 1929–30 (in the West Indies and New Zealand) are deemed to have "Test status".
In 1970, a series of five "Test matches" was played in England between England and a Rest of the World XI. These matches, originally scheduled between England and South Africa, were amended after South Africa was suspended from international cricket because of their government's policy of apartheid. Although initially given Test status (and included as Test matches in some record books, including Wisden Cricketers' Almanack), this was later withdrawn and a principle was established that official Test matches can only be between nations (although the geographically and demographically small countries of the West Indies have since 1928 been permitted to field a coalition side). Despite this, in 2005, the ICC ruled that the six-day Super Series match that took place in October 2005, between Australia and a World XI, was an official Test match. Some cricket writers and statisticians, including Bill Frindall, ignored the ICC's ruling and excluded the 2005 match from their records. The series of "Test matches" played in Australia between Australia and a World XI in 1971/72 do not have Test status. The commercial "Supertests" organised by Kerry Packer as part of his World Series Cricket enterprise and played between "WSC Australia", "WSC World XI" and "WSC West Indies" from 1977 to 1979 have never been regarded as official Test matches.