SA’s Boxing Day Test scrapped

2012-06-05 11:20
Cape Town – Cricket South Africa seem to have found their solution to the problematic Boxing Day Test tradition in the country: scrap the fixture, at least for the time being.

For probably the first time since their return from isolation - when not engaged in a series in Australia with those fierce adversaries at that time of year - South Africa will not host a five-day affair over the period between December 26 and 30.

Instead, in what may come to be viewed as a creative, intelligent bit of thinking, the Proteas will play a Twenty20 daytime international against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth on December 26 - the last of three contests between the two in that particular format after pre-Christmas games in Durban (December 21) and East London (December 23).  

Traditionalists may be a little sceptical, suggesting - perhaps not without foundation - that the move will only hasten the perceived, increasing marginalisation of the Test format the world over.

The Boxing Day Test does remain big business Down Under: the Aussies are highly unlikely to ever do away with the traditional game at the vast Melbourne Cricket Ground, where a first-day crowd of 70 000 or more is not uncommon.

And part of the reason that the Proteas will be playing a Test series in Australia earlier in the summer (November and early December) is that CSA understandably want prime cricket on their own turf over the holiday season, which has created the impasse between the two countries over scheduling whenever they are due to lock horns.

But for whatever reason, “selling” the Boxing Day Test to the South African public has been a largely unprofitable exercise: Kingsmead in Durban has tended to be the venue for it, but the weather is sticky and often overcast - with the light meter so often out in the second or third session - and good crowds elusive partly as a result.

In addition, the Proteas have a strangely poor modern Test record at the ground.

Instead, then, the local Test season only begins with the traditional New Year fixture at Newlands from January 2, when the Black Caps again provide the opposition.

Regardless of the calibre of opponents, Capetonians happily tend to turn out in droves for this match.

The second and final Test is in Port Elizabeth from January 11-15.

Next challengers for the Proteas on home turf in 2012/13 will be promisingly resurgent Pakistan, who beat top-ranked England in a “home” Test series in the neutral United Arab Emirates not too long ago.

The three Tests are to be played in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Centurion respectively from early February.

In another move by CSA which indicates their determination to “fish where the fish are”, smaller centres like Paarl, Kimberley, Potchefstroom and Benoni will be prominently involved in one-day fare against either of the New Zealanders or Pakistanis.

That is a logical reward for towns like these responding well last season to various ODIs against Sri Lanka being given relative back-water billings.

While Newlands – recently voted in a prominent international poll as the second best ground globally to watch Test cricket at - misses out on any limited-overs internationals, neighbouring Paarl is only a 40-minute trek up the N1, and the picturesque venue fittingly and expectedly hogs the Test action with two fixtures in the summer.

Places like Potchefstroom and Benoni, similarly, are within easy reach of Johannesburg folk.

The key Proteas home dates for 2012/13:

New Zealand tour:

December 21: 1st T20I, Durban
December 23: 2nd T20I, East London
December 26: 3rd T20I, Port Elizabeth

January 2-6: 1st Test, Cape Town
January 11-15: 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth

January 19: 1st ODI, Paarl
January 22: 2nd ODI, Kimberley
January 25: 3rd ODI, Potchefstroom

Pakistan tour:

February 1-5: 1st Test, Johannesburg
February 14-18: 2nd Test, Cape Town
February 22-26: 3rd Test, Centurion

March 1: 1st T20I, Durban
March 3: 2nd T20I, Centurion

March 10: 1st ODI, Bloemfontein
March 15: 2nd ODI, Centurion
March 17: 3rd ODI, Johannesburg
March 21: 4th ODI, Durban
March 24: 5th ODI, Benoni

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rob houwing  |  cricket


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