South Africa have confirmed their first tour to Pakistan since 2007 - they will play two Tests and three T20Is between January 26 and February 14 next year. South Africa will travel to Pakistan on January 16 and go into quarantine before the Tests are played in Karachi and Rawalpindi, before they shift to Lahore for the T20Is.
South Africa will be the third World Test Championship team to travel to Pakistan after the resumption of top-level cricket in the country following a long hiatus, after Sri Lanka's visit in 2019 and Bangladesh's earlier this year.
"South Africa confirming a tour to Pakistan and playing matches at the three major centres is a fabulous news for Pakistan cricket and its fans," PCB director Zakir Khan said in a statement. "South Africa is one of the most popular sides in Pakistan even though they last played here in 2007, but the fans have been following their performances closely and now look forward to welcoming them."
South Africa will arrive in Pakistan fresh off the cancellation of the ODI home series against England after a breach in the bio-secure facilities at Newlands led to positive cases emerging in both the South Africa and England camps (though the England tests later returned negative). That threw the South African home series against Sri Lanka and Australia next year in jeopardy, with the possibility South Africa would be compelled to play out those matches away from home. Combined with the Pakistan tour, that would mean South Africa could spend large amounts of time next year away from home.
Cricket South Africa director - and the captain of the South African side when they last toured Pakistan - Graeme Smith, said: "As someone who has toured the country on more than one occasion back in my playing days, I know how much passion the people of Pakistan have for the game as well as the love and support that the Proteas enjoy there as a team.
"I would like to thank the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the hospitality and transparency they showed our security contingent when they travelled over there a few weeks ago. The report on their findings and recommendations gives us confidence as an organization that all of our team's security, playing and accommodation needs will be met and that the wellbeing of the team will be the top priority. We look forward to embarking on this historical tour."
While South Africa haven't played a series in Pakistan for 12 years, there has been significant South African involvement in cricket in Pakistan over the past three years. In the three-match T20I series between Pakistan and World XI, five of the visiting squad were South African, including former South African skipper Hashim Amla, and the current captain Faf du Plessis.
Du Plessis has spoken frequently about the extent to which Pakistan go to ensure the safety of visiting teams, saying before that tour the arrangements made the players feel "like movie stars". Last month, he visited Pakistan as part of the foreign contingent of the Peshawar Zalmi side in the PSL. "I was only there for a short time. Flew in, spent three days in the hotel room, played one T20 and flew back so I didn't do much sightseeing in Pakistan," he had said. "But, from a security point of view, they pull out all the stops. From shutting down every single road, to armoured vehicles, bulletproof buses, the army on the streets, snipers on the roof, helicopters in the air. I think its only a matter of time before teams are traveling there."
The Pakistan team, meanwhile, only just emerged from nearly three weeks in quarantine in New Zealand where the entire travelling party tested negative before departing to New Zealand, only to return several positive cases immediately upon arrival in the country. It was compounded by the New Zealand director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield criticising the squad for several breaching of New Zealand's Covid-19 protocols on the first day, with Wasim Khan telling the players that any further breaches would result in the side being sent back home.
Pakistan are also scheduled to host New Zealand, England and West Indies next year.