England in South Africa 2004-05 March 10, 2004

England agree to gruelling South Africa schedule

Wisden Cricinfo staff

England won't have much time for festive fun and frolics this year, after it was agreed they would play three back-to-back Tests against South Africa in a punishing Christmas schedule.

After two warm-up games, the first Test will begin on December 17 in Port Elizabeth, and will be followed by matches in Durban on Boxing Day and Cape Town on January 2, before a seven-day break to recharge the batteries ahead of another pair of back-to-back matches in Johannesburg and Centurion.

As if that is not punishment enough, the squad will then embark on a series of seven one-day internationals in the space of a fortnight, the last of which will end on February 13. For Michael Vaughan, it is a disappointing itinerary, especially given the way in which England capitulated in Sri Lanka at the end of a similar string of matches last December. The final match, which England lost by an innings and 215 runs, was described by Vaughan as "a game too much".

The tour will follow England's busiest home summer yet, with seven Tests and at least 11 one-day internationals already scheduled. The players are, on the other hand, virtually guaranteed a decent break at the end of the English season, as the proposed tour to Zimbabwe in October and November is almost certain to be cancelled, despite the pressure being exerted by the ICC.

Tour itinerary

December

5 England squad arrives
8 v Nicky Oppenheimer XI, Ranjesfontein
11-13 v South Africa A, Potchefstroom
17-21 1st Test, Port Elizabeth
26-30 2nd Test, Durban

January

2-6 3rd Test, Cape Town
9 v South Africa A, Kimberley
13-17 4th Test, Johannesburg
21-25 5th Test, Centurion
28 v South Africa A, Benoni
30 1st ODI, Johannesburg

February

2 2nd ODI, Bloemfontein D/N
4 3rd ODI, Port Elizabeth D/N
6 4th ODI, Cape Town
9 5th ODI, East London D/N
11 6th ODI, Durban D/N
13 7th ODI, Centurion

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