CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s Boxing Day Test will move north to Centurion for the first time since readmission after continually poor crowds on the coast in recent years. The shift was confirmed as Cricket South Africa announced its fixtures for next season, which will include a limited overs tour by Zimbabwe and full tours by both Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Zimbabwe will visit for three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals between September 30 and October 14, with the matches set to be hosted by South Africa’s smaller venues. Pakistan will come next, starting with a three-Test series at Centurion on December 26 before playing five ODIs and three T20Is. They will be followed by Sri Lanka, who play two Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is between February 13 and March 24.
Durban and Port Elizabeth have hosted all of South Africa’s Boxing Day Tests since readmission in 1992, but neither venue has attracted meaningful crowds during the holiday period. The decision to move the fixture to the Highveld had been coming for some time – India were expected to start their tour of South Africa at Centurion last season until their delayed arrival led their Boxing Day fixture to be scrapped and a Test dropped from the series. A four-day Day-Night Test against Zimbabwe under Port Elizabeth’s new lights was scheduled instead, but that fixture flopped when the tourists folded in less than two days in front of another disappointing crowd.
CSA have looked north to solve the issue. Prior to isolation, Test matches over Christmas were traditionally hosted by the Wanderers. It was during the rebel tours in the 1980s that the Boxing Day fixture gradually shifted to Durban, with two of the three Boxing Day games in that period hosted by Kingsmead.
Although many people leave Johannesburg and Pretoria for the Christmas holidays – often for the beaches around Durban – the hope is that those who stay behind will see the cricket as an attractive alternative. Centurion enjoys good crowds at Test matches over weekends and generally sells out for limited overs games.
While the five Tests on offer represent something of a climbdown from the entertainment of last season, when India and Australia provided superb competition, the added ODI focus will serve the Proteas well ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“It is going to be a very busy period and a very big one for our Proteas who will be using the programme of 13 ODIs against three different opponents in addition to the away tours to fine tune their preparations for the 2019 ICC World Cup to be played in England and Wales,” CSA’s acting chief executive, Thabang Moroe, said.
South Africa are expected to tour Australia for an ODI series in the long gap between Zimbabwe’s visit and the tour by Pakistan, but the Proteas should also be available for most of the domestic Twenty20 tournament that will fall in November and December. With CSA still trying to devise a sustainable format for the Twenty20 Global League, it looks highly likely that the existing T20 tournament will fill in once again. Agencies
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