South Africa news July 8, 2013

Boxing Day Test to return in style in Durban

Kingsmead plans to celebrate the return of the Boxing Day Test in Durban with an explosion of the tradition it represents. The organisers hope to emulate the home of cricket with a Lord's-themed five days for the first fixture between South Africa and India.

"We made a big push to get this match back and the Durban public did so as well. We've got a lot of things planned and additional activities on the go," Jesse Chellan, chief executive of the Dolphins, the franchise that operates out of Durban, told ESPNcricinfo. "We're looking to replicate what goes on at Lord's in terms of the food courts and corporate tents."

Chellan and his staff have been waiting for South Africa's 2013-14 home schedule to be announced to see if it would deal them a better hand than it did last season. Then, not only was Kingsmead robbed of its festive five-dayer but it did not host a Test at all.

Instead, the venue was given an ODI and two T20s, one of which was washed out, as Cricket South Africa tried to maximise interest in the two visiting teams. New Zealand's trip was over the holiday period and because they were considered less marketable than opposition like India, England or Australia, CSA scheduled T20s in the week between Christmas and New Year.

That decision, however, was criticised. Although all the T20s were sold out, cricket fans lamented the removal of the Boxing Day Test. With India providing a significant draw card, CSA was able to restore the fixture in Durban.

Kingsmead has been criticised for crowds that do not match expectation but Chellan said it's not those numbers alone that indicate interest in the event. "We are very pleased for the Durban public and the South Africa public as a whole. The Boxing Day Test is an institution and people put away time to watch it, whether it's on the stadium or on television," he said. "We don't really make money on the Test matches but it's an important match to have."

It has also been dubbed South Africa's bogey venue because they have not won in Durban since beating West Indies in 2008, but Chellan hopes the No.1 ranked Test side can change their fortunes at his ground.

South Africa's form suggests they may be able to. They won all five Tests they hosted last summer - two against New Zealand and three against Pakistan - inside four days. They will expect a sterner challenge this season. India and Australia visit for three Tests each but both will have to take South Africa on at fortress Newlands, where the home side last lost in 2006.

Cape Town and Johannesburg will host Tests against India but there was also good news for Port Elizabeth. After going without a Test from 2007, the venue given one last summer against New Zealand and will host Australia this year.

That left only Bloemfontein among the major grounds, which are understood to be the primary venues of each of the six franchises, without a Test. The city has only hosted four Tests in the past, the most recent against Bangladesh in 2008. With talk of seven Tests this summer - the administrators were pondering a fourth against India - Bloemfontein was hopeful of being among the grounds to host but are willing to bide their time for now.

"We are a little disappointed but maybe if there were more Tests in a season, we would come into contention," Johan van Heerden, the Free State cricket boss said. "We've hosted very few Tests so it's difficult to judge what the spectator numbers will be like here. But we've kept maintenance of our stadium superb and we are starting the building of a new hotel on the northern side of the stadium. When that is complete, I think we will have a far greater chance of hosting a Test."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on July 9, 2013, 19:34 GMT

    What a great idea!

    Don't forget Lords is the only Test ground where you can still bring your own alcohol into the ground.

    Make sure this rule is enforced ;)

  • Faan on July 9, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    @Optic If it is reference only to way things are run, then it would be fantastic.

  • David on July 9, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    @ Optic. Your post created an image of Kingsmead fans in veldskoens, khaki shorts, & tee-shirts printed to look like a gaudy MCC tie and blazer. (The tie would be a red & yellow striped boerewors, & a Castle would replace the MCC logo on the "blazer" pocket.) An Amla beard would be the perfect accessory to complete the outfit, but the Castle would then have to be covered, perhaps by a miniature vuvuzela in flag colours?

    Ja nee - they want to make Kingsmead seem like Lords, that's what they are bound to end up with!

  • dj on July 8, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    When was the actual last time we won any test on that ground ?

  • GARY on July 8, 2013, 17:29 GMT

    @Slidingdownleg Not sure what's odd in wanting to replicate how Lords goes about it's business in terms of marketing it self to the corporate sector and the way they put on great food and make a real big occasion of it. That's all it means and by the sounds of t you can't have read the article. It doesn't mean they are suddenly going to start selling multicolored ties and silly blazers for the fans to wear, Ala Lords members.

  • Faan on July 8, 2013, 15:04 GMT

    Don't see the reason to have a Lord's themed test. Kingsmead has its own, rich traditions. Many wonderful players have played entertaining test matches here. There will be a lot of support for both teams in Durban. Lord's just seems odd.

  • Vishwaksena on July 8, 2013, 14:39 GMT

    bozing day test is a great tradition which has produced many brilliant games over the years . Most people would be looking for an outing anyway it also increases the number of people watching test cricket & anyway you can get crowd for T20s & odis compared to test . So utilisng boxing day sounds sensible by all means & hope it entartains people .

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