Proteas: Thinning pattern in Test matches

2018-06-25 17:21
Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)

Cape Town - The fanfare around the establishment at long last of a World Test Championship seems to come with a smokescreen ... or at least as far as South Africa is concerned.

While the currently second-ranked Proteas will naturally play an integral part in the International Cricket Council's new baby, which kicks in during 2019, their actual weight in future Test matches is trimming down - at least according to the latest Future Tours Programme (FTP) that takes in the period up to World Cup 2023 in India.

While the FTP does allow for expansion in bilateral rosters, across the formats, the signs don't look especially good for SA connoisseurs of the longest-form brand over the next few years.

Certainly it will be a while before the Proteas, for instance, get anything like the volume of Test matches in a home summer that they experienced last season, when Bangladesh were tackled twice, Zimbabwe once, India three times and Australia four for a total of 10.

It had already been known that the tally would slide by 50 percent to five for the upcoming season, when Cricket South Africa may find it tough to market respective series not embracing traditional "big four powers" action against Pakistan (three) and Sri Lanka (two).

But as things stand, there is also no hike beyond five home Tests - and sometimes it is even fewer - in SA right up to the end of the FTP cycle.

The Proteas are due to play only four home Tests in 2019/20, all against England, five in 2020/21 (two Sri Lanka, three Australia), five in 2021/22 (three India, two Bangladesh) and a miserly two in 2022/23 (both West Indies).

That is a total of 21 home Tests until CWC 2023.

It rather pales in comparison with their oldest rival in the format, England: that country, by contrast, stages 30 home Tests in the period, a run that has started already with the two-Test series against Pakistan very recently.

Australia will host 26 home Tests, so both major rivals have substantially more five-day fare to look forward to, on their preferred terrain, than the Proteas do.

One notable feature of the away Test roster for South Africa in the FTP period is that they will finally get to tour the Caribbean again - albeit just for two Test matches - in 2020.

By the time that comes along, it will have been an unusual 10 years since their last Test tour of West Indies, a three-match one in 2010.

South Africa won 2-0, and unless Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn are still part of the Proteas' mix, every other player selected is likely to be playing five-day fare on West Indian soil for the first time.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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