Cape Town – There is light at the end of
the tunnel for connoisseurs of the long-form game wishing to see the
world-leading Proteas involved in some overdue five-Test series.
Although no official word has been
forthcoming yet from either Cricket South Africa (CSA) or the England and Wales
Cricket Board (ECB), Sport24 understands that agreement in principle has been
reached between the two governing bodies for at least two series between the
Proteas and England (one home, one away) a little down to the scheduling line
to involve five contests.
England are due on these shores as the
headline act next summer (2015/16) and CSA’s chief executive Haroon Lorgat had
pushed even as soon as that series for it to comprise five Tests, but England
could not make it happen logistically.
The English will nevertheless play a decent
enough four Tests here next season for the now-traditional Basil D’Oliveira
Trophy – Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Centurion in that order – and
bring their usual swollen tally of supporters escaping the chilly domestic
Their “Barmy Army”, relishing a favourable
exchange rate (the rand is presently at well over 18 to the pound) not only
bring a great atmosphere to the bilateral duels but contribute in no small
measure to the South African economy while on safari.
It will be the No 1-ranked Proteas’ first
series made up of more than three Tests in 19, if you include the current
three-Test one against West Indies and next year’s away series against
Bangladesh (two) and India (three) before England arrive.
But even better news is that beyond next
season’s England series, many of the current SA Test players may finally get to
experience a five-match one when the sides meet again – they are due to lock
horns once more in 2017 (England) and 2019/20 (South Africa).
The Proteas last played a five-Test roster
as far back as the 2004/05 season, when a particularly strong England side of
the time led by Michael Vaughan pipped Graeme Smith’s home outfit 2-1: of the
SA side playing the Test against West Indies at Centurion right now, only Dale
Steyn, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers were involved as then-rookies.
The cream of South Africa’s Test players
are always envious of the regular five-Test Ashes series between England and
Australia, especially, as series of that duration are regarded as the truest
examination of quality and durability in the game’s most distinguished arena.
So any strides by CSA toward longer series
have to be considered encouraging news.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing