South Africa will play five home Tests, 13 ODIs and nine T20s in the 2018-19 summer, which will see incoming tours from Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The international fixtures, released on Monday, start on September 30 and end on March 24 but there is a 10-week gap between mid-October and Boxing Day, leaving room for the possibility of a T20 Global League, though the future of the tournament remains uncertain.
After the busiest home season in South African history in 2017-18, which included 10 Tests - one of which was the first day-night, four-day long format fixture - South Africa will have much less of a workload next summer. They will only play half the number of Tests but more than double in ODIs and T20s, as preparation for the 2019 World Cup.
That means the five major Test venues receive one match each, with a significant change in the hosting of the Boxing Day Test. Centurion's SuperSport Park has been selected as the venue for the fixture, which will move inland after several years of being played on the coast. Previously, the match has alternated between Durban and Port Elizabeth, with the rationale that holiday-makers from up-country would fill the stadiums but poor crowds over recent years have forced a change. Though many Highveld residents flock to the sea over the festive season, a large number remain at home over that period and CSA have long spoken about trialling the Boxing Day match there.
The New Year's Test remains at Newlands in Cape Town while Kingsmead and St George's Park will host Sri Lanka in the final tour of the summer. The Tests will not have the profile of the previous season, when India and Australia featured in two high-octane tours of South Africa, but with Faf du Plessis' men ranked No.2, and the return of big names such as AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn (provided he comes through a county stint at Hampshire and away Tests against Sri Lanka in July), CSA are hopeful interest in the long format will remain high.
"Following the outstanding Test match cricket played by the Proteas during the past season we can also look forward to plenty more world-class entertainment by our acknowledged stars during the five Test matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka," Thabang Moroe, Acting CSA CEO, said.
But the focus of next season is on white-ball cricket, with coach Ottis Gibson mandated to do everything he can to win the 2019 World Cup, a tournament that is likely to be a swansong for several players. Du Plessis, de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy, amongst others, may end their international careers at the World Cup, giving South Africa extra motivation to try and break their major tournament drought.
Moroe emphasised that South Africa will aim to get as much preparation in as possible, hence the glut of 50-over fixtures. "It is going to be a very busy period and a very big one for our Standard Bank Proteas who will be using the programme of 13 ODIs against three different opponents in addition to the away tours to fine-tune their preparations for the 2019 ICC World Cup," he said.
Though Zimbabwe did not qualify for the World Cup, they will be South Africa's first opponents and the only ones who will play at the smaller venues around the country. Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Paarl, East London, Potchefstroom and Benoni will not have any matches against either Pakistan or Sri Lanka, with those concentrated at the big grounds.
September 30: 1st ODI, Kimberley
October 3: 2nd ODI, Bloemfontein,
October 6: 3rd ODI, Paarl
October 9: 1st T20, East London
October 12: 2nd T20, Potchefstroom
October 14: 3rd T20, Benoni
December 19-21: Three-day tour match v SA Invitation XI, Benoni
December 26-30: 1st Test, Centurion
January 3-7: 2nd Test Cape Town
January 11-15: 3rd Test, Johannesburg
January 19: 1st ODI, Port Elizabeth
January 22: 2nd ODI, Durban
January 25: 3rd ODI, Centurion
January 27: 4th ODI, Johannesburg
January 30: 5th ODI, Cape Town
February 1: 1st T20, Cape Town
February 3: 2nd T20 Johannesburg
February 6: 3rd T20, Centurion
v Sri Lanka
February 13-17: 1st Test, Durban
February 21-25: 2nd Test match, Port Elizabeth
February 28: One-Day tour match v SA Invitation XI, Benoni
March 3: 1st ODI, Johannesburg
March 6: 2nd ODI, Centurion
March 10: 3rd ODI, Durban
March 13: 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth
March 16: 5th ODI, Cape Town
March 19: 1st T20 Cape Town
March 22: 2nd T20, Centurion
March 24: 3rd T20, Johannesburg