England v Ireland in July 2019, Australia v Afghanistan in November 2021 and an India v Zimbabwe Test after 14 years - these are just some of the fascinating contests lined up in the next five-year cycle for Test cricket's three bottom-ranked teams, two of whom are just one Test old. In all, Afghanistan and Ireland have been allotted 13 Tests each according to the new FTP while Zimbabwe have 21.
Afghanistan and Ireland have been assigned only one-off Tests for the next five years, barring a two-match series between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in 2021. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, have a wide range of Test series scheduled: eight one-off Tests, five two-Test contests and one three-Test series.
Afghanistan's biggest Test encounter will be against Australia, who they face both at home (September 2022) and away (November 2021). Their next Test is at home against Ireland in February 2019, after which they travel to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Afghanistan then host West Indies for a Test in December 2019 before playing Ireland again in March 2020. For the rest of the cycle, Afghanistan play more Tests against Zimbabwe and Ireland.
Ireland have not been scheduled a Test against Australia, but play a lot more teams than Afghanistan - even though they're all solitary games. They play Tests against England (July 2019), Sri Lanka (February 2020) and New Zealand (June 2022) apart from fixtures against West Indies, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe's Test fixtures include multiple encounters against Afghanistan and Ireland, but they will also travel for a three-Test tour of Bangladesh (January 2019), an away Test against India (March 2019) and home Tests against West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But Zimbabwe have no Tests scheduled against Australia and South Africa, and no bilateral series against New Zealand and England.
The way the FTP has been scheduled, it's also likely that the teams' Tests against Ireland and Afghanistan could be used as preparatory matches ahead of tours of England and India.
On the limited-overs front, Ireland will play 64 ODIs and 65 T20Is, Zimbabwe will play 59 ODIs and 50 T20Is, and Afghanistan will play 51 ODIs and 45 T20Is. These include Afghanistan's three ODIs against India (March 2021), Ireland's six-match tour of New Zealand (June 2020) and South Africa (June 2021), and Zimbabwe's three-match ODI series against Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan from June-November 2020. Each of these teams also have multiple white-ball contests against West Indies and Bangladesh.
While results from these Tests will not affect the ICC Test Championship, all three teams will keep a keen eye on the 13-team ODI Championship that begins from 2022. Only the top seven teams (plus hosts India) qualify directly from that tournament into the 2023 World Cup. For the rest, it's a much tougher route.