SA emerging women's squad to tour Zimbabwe late May
A day after Zimbabwe Cricket was dealt a major blow with news that India will put on hold their scheduled tour there in July, they have been offered small compensation, with South Africa planning to send an emerging women's squad to tour the country later this month.
A group of South Africa's most promising female players will play two ODIs and two Twenty20s between May 22 and 28 in Harare. The national women's team coach, Hilton Moreeng, will oversee proceedings in a bid to identify promising talent ahead of the World Twenty20, which will be held in Bangladesh in 2014.
"This tour presents us with a unique opportunity to grow our talent base for women," Max Jordaan, Cricket South Africa (CSA) transformation manager, said. "The opportunities provided at this level will ensure [that] a steady flow of players [are] better prepared for international competition when their time arrives."
Similarly, Zimbabwe will use the series to help prepare for next year's tournament in Bangladesh. Although the tour will not bring in any money through television rights, it may give Zimbabwe some reassurance that they have not been forgotten by the wider cricketing world.
South Africa have an informal commitment to play against Zimbabwe at least once a year, but the packed international schedule does not always allow that. Last year, they visited the country for an unofficial T20 tri-series, which also involved Bangladesh, and although the men's teams are unlikely to meet in 2013, the women's tour will ensure South Africa's obligation to their neighbours does not go unfulfilled.
Women's cricket in South Africa received a large boost when ODI sponsors, Momentum also committed to funding them alongside the men's team. As a result, CSA is also in negotiations with the English Cricket Board (ECB) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to host both the English and Sri Lanka women's teams later in the year in order to give the team "more international exposure than ever before."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent