In yet another strengthening of the ties between South Africa and Pakistan, Saeed Ajmal has signed with Titans and Shahid Afridi with Knights for the upcoming domestic 20-overs competition.* ESPNcricnfo understands Sohail Tanvir will be part of the Lions squad as well, while two other players are in negotiation to confirm deals.
The signings are believed to be part of the growing friendship between the two countries, which have always enjoyed good relations but are seeking to further develop that bond. Pakistan agreed to tour South Africa at short notice after a curtailed India visit left Cape Town without an ODI all summer and venues such as Bloemfontein and East London with no international cricket at all. Two of the five matches Pakistan agreed to play were hosted at Newlands to make up for India's absence, although CSA did not make up the money lost.
When Pakistan's visit was announced, CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat indicated the relationship between the two countries would expand to give Pakistan's players, who do not participate in the IPL, an opportunity to play in the 20-overs competition.
That mutually beneficial idea appears to have been actioned already, with the possibility of five Pakistan players participating in South Africa this summer. "Pakistan players are finding opportunities to earn their money in leagues abroad vastly reduced due to politics and other outside influences, and therefore this opportunity to play in South Africa is greatly appreciated by the players," Ummran Khan, the players' agent said.
While Ajmal and Afridi will be new to the South African domestic scene, Tanvir has already spent two seasons with Lions. In addition to providing international experience, he has been credited with mentoring their younger crop of quicks, which includes Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen. Tanvir also played for Lions during this year's Champions League T20.
Should all five Pakistan signings materialise, that will take the total number of foreign players in the 20-overs competition to eight. West Indies' Sunil Narine has been contracted to Dolphins, while his international team-mate Chris Gayle is due to join England's Graham Onions at Dolphins. Although Gayle is currently out of action with a hamstring tear, the Durban-based team expect him to be fit for the tournament.
The domestic 20-overs competition will be played from January 5, when it will open with a triple-header at Newlands as part of the festival of cricket that has been organised to replace the New Year's Test. It will run until February 9. Pakistan's players who feature for the national team will not be available for the full window, because it clashes with their series against Sri Lanka which is on till January 20.
*15.00GMT, November 29: This article was updated after confirmation of the players' signing came in