Boxing Day Test back on SA home calendar
In a home season that will feature high profile opponents in India and Australia, the Boxing Day Test returned to South Africa's cricket calendar
The traditional Boxing Day Test returns to South African shores for the 2013-14 season with India scheduled to play the first of three Tests in the home summer. CSA cancelled the fixture last season and opted to play three T20s against New Zealand over the festive period instead in the hope of attracting bigger in-stadium audiences. Although the matches were sell-outs, there was a public outcry about the lack of a Test match and with India visiting this season, the administrators have reinstalled the fixture and handed it back to its usual home, Kingsmead in Durban.
But before they can get to that, India will play two T20s and seven ODIs between November 18 and December 15. The matches have been spread around the country with so-called smaller venues like East London and Bloemfontein playing host to ODIs. Newlands Stadium will also host a fifty-over match after not having one last season.
After two warm-up matches, India will play three Tests, which are to be held in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg and will conclude the tour. Administrators are hopeful Sachin Tendulkar will bring up another milestone during the second of those games. "The Indian players have always been very popular in South Africa and their maestro, Sachin Tendulkar, has currently played 198 Test matches," Naasei Appiah, CSA acting CEO said. "It would be wonderful for his 200th Test match to be in front of a packed New Year's crowd at Newlands. The last time he played a Test match there his battle with Dale Steyn thrilled a global audience."
South Africa's busy period continues with Australia visiting for three more Tests that take place between mid-February and early March. "Any series between Australia and South Africa in any sporting code always promises a spectacle of note and a contest worthy of some of sport's most famous moments," Appiah said. "Australia will be battle-hardened after successive home and away Ashes series against England."
The Australians will kick off their tour with a warm-up fixture in Potchefstroom before Test matches in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. St Georges' Park keeps their Test fixture after successfully hosting New Zealand last year. The venue had not seen the longest format match for five years prior to that. Newlands, by virtue of its significant Test crowds, is the only venue that will host two Tests. Australia's tour has no ODIs but three T20s, which South Africa hope to use as preparation for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
South Africa's season begins before these two major tours though. Their limited-overs sides embark on a five ODI and three T20 visit to Sri Lanka at the end of this month for Russell Domingo's first assignment as head coach. They also visit the UAE to play Pakistan for fixtures that are yet to be decided in October.
The main talking point ahead of the series is the fitness of Test captain Graeme Smith, who is recovering from ankle surgery. Smith returned home from Surrey in May when the recurring problem with his ankle flared up again. At the time, he was said to need four to five months of rest. Team manager and doctor Mohammed Moosajee said Smith's rehabilitation is "progressing well," and they are hopeful he will be available to play against Pakistan and are determined to have him ready for the home summer.