Sri Lanka set to play two-Test series in South Africa

Faf du Plessis oversaw a 2-0 series defeat at home against Sri Lanka
October 27, 2020

A full summer schedule has been announced for South Africa's men's team. They will host England, Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan in biosecure bubbles between November 2020 and April 2021, with the possibility of traveling to Pakistan in early 2021. The home season will include five home Tests, six ODIs, and six T20Is, while CSA is in negotiation to play Tests and T20Is in Pakistan. All matches and training sessions will take place behind closed doors.

After confirming the England series last week, CSA has announced that Sri Lanka will visit over the festive period for two Tests on the Highveld. SuperSport Park, which hosted England for the Boxing Day Test last year and Pakistan the year before, has been retained as the venue for this fixture, while the new Wanderers Stadium will host the New Year's Test for the first time. The New Year's Test has only been played in Johannesburg three times previously, at the old Wanderers stadium, but not for more than a 100 years, with the last instance being 1914. Newlands in Cape Town misses out on what is regarded as the most iconic fixture in the South African cricket calendar.

South Africa hope to spend the rest of January 2021 in Pakistan but a call on the feasibility of that tour will be made after a security team completes a risk assessment. A CSA delegation will depart for Pakistan this weekend. Cricday understands that South Africa could play two Tests and a T20I series in Pakistan.

The team will then return home to take on Australia in three Tests, with venues yet to be announced, for the first time since the sandpapergate scandal of 2018. Pakistan round out the summer with three ODIs and three T20Is in April.

The PCB has also confirmed that this tour will take place.

"The Pakistan Cricket Board today confirmed the men's national team will tour South Africa in April 2021 for three One-Day Internationals, which will be part of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League, and as many T20 Internationals," the PCB said in a statement on Tuesday. "Pakistan has now agreed to fulfil its Future Tours Programme (FTP) commitment prior to visiting Zimbabwe for two Tests and three T20Is. The schedule of both the series will be announced in due course."

The up-country venues have been chosen for the Sri Lanka series for two reasons: most obviously that CSA can create a bubble between Centurion and Johannesburg, with teams likely to stay in Sandton, but also for cricketing purposes. It will suit South Africa to play Sri Lanka on the two fastest surfaces in the county, especially after losing the last home series 2-0 against them on slower surfaces on the coast. South Africa have not beaten Sri Lanka in a Test series since the 2016-17 summer, losing to them in 2018 in Sri Lanka and in 2018-19 at home. All those matches were played under the captaincy of Faf du Plessis, who stood down in January, which means the upcoming Sri Lanka series will be the first under a new captain, who has yet to be named, although an announcement is imminent. New convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang begins in the job on Monday, which is also when the first round of domestic first-class matches begins, which should provide insight into red-ball form.

"It is an absolute pleasure to deliver more good news for our cricket-loving fans to consume, following last week's confirmed tour against England and domestic season launch," Kugandrie Govender, CSA's acting CEO, said. "The Covid-19 pandemic predictably forced many changes to the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) and the traditional sequencing of scheduling matches in South Africa this season. This is why I am particularly proud of today's announcement. It comes as a result of many hours of dedication, negotiation and hard work by individuals behind the scenes to ensure that our fans have an exciting line-up of cricket to look forward to throughout the summer."

The announcement of the fixtures comes on the same day when CSA is due to present South Africa's sports minister, Nathi Mthethwa, with reasons to deter him from intervening in its affairs. Mthethwa was forced to announce his intention to look into CSA after the body refused to comply with the instructions of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), which demanded that the CSA Board and executive temporarily stand down while SASCOC conducts an investigation into CSA. SASCOC also wanted unrestricted access to the forensic report that CSA used to fire former CEO Thabang Moroe.

CSA refused on both counts, but its entire board has since resigned. The executive remains in place and it is expected that an interim committee will be put in place in lieu of a board until December's AGM. For now, those behind-the-scenes activities do not seem to be affecting matters on the field, albeit CSA has hit financially tough times.

The organisation is forecasting a loss for the 2019-2022 cycle but no pay cuts have taken place. The South Africa men's team has been out of action since March, when their white-ball tour of India was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. They had tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies and a home T20I series against India postponed. The women's team, whose fixtures will be announced in the coming weeks, has not played since the T20 World Cup. Their home series against Australia and trips to the West Indies and England could not go ahead.

South Africa remains in lockdown, albeit it at the most lenient stage (1 of 5), and most activity has resumed. The country's borders are open, with only leisure travellers from high-risk countries not allowed in.

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