ST GEORGE’s Park’s gain was Kingsmead’s loss when Cricket South Africa announced the national team’s fixtures until next January.
Graeme Smith’s team will play the Boxing Day Test — which was held in Durban after its absence from the KwaZulu-Natal city last summer caused grumbling over the loss of a “tradition” only 16 matches old — in Port Elizabeth this year.
Like Kingsmead, the Wanderers is also out in the cold as a Test venue next summer.
“I’m pleased for PE and pleased for EP (Eastern Province) cricket that, after a long time trying to get recognition and trying to convince people that we can stage Test matches here, it’s finally happening,” former Eastern Province Cricket Board CE Dave Emslie said on Monday. He was speaking a day after South Africa surged to a rousing 231-run win in Port Elizabeth to level their series against Australia heading into the third Test at Newlands, which begins on Saturday.
More than 37,000 spectators clicked through the Kingsmead turnstiles over five days to see South Africa play India in December. At St George’s Park, 25,800 turned up in the four days that last week’s match lasted.
However, Emslie said numbers weren’t everything: “Even with a crowd of only 6,000 (at St George’s Park), with the band playing and the atmosphere at the ground, you can mask the effect of not having that many people there in a way that bigger grounds that have more concrete can’t do.”
For KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union CE Jesse Chellan, the news was “a disappointment”.
“From all accounts, the last Test at Kingsmead was a success,” Chellan said. “We are going to be engaging with Cricket South Africa to unpack the issues and understand the reasons for this decision.”
The Gauteng Cricket Board (GCB) would also be knocking on Cricket South Africa’s door.
“We are not happy and our board will be sending a response to Cricket South Africa,” GCB president Thabang Moroe said. “The Wanderers needs Tests.”
The GCB is also staring at a huge loss for hosting the second Twenty20 on January 11 and the second one-day international a week later.
January is the toughest month for consumers, who are likely to choose which of those matches to attend rather than budget for both — which they would have been more inclined to do had they been further apart.
South Africa played India in the first one-day international at the Wanderers on December 5, and the teams were back there for the first Test on December 18. The GCB incurred losses of over R1m for the games.
Newlands is in the same boat, what with the third Test ending on January 6 and the first Twenty20 slated three days later.
Cricket South Africa said South Africa would play two Tests in Sri Lanka in July and another in Zimbabwe in August.
A schedule featuring up to 24 one-day internationals — including a triangular tournament involving Australia and Zimbabwe, and games in New Zealand and Australia — will give South Africa ample opportunity to ensure their readiness for next year’s World Cup in Australasia.
West Indies tour:
December 10-12: South Africa Invitation XI, Benoni December 17-21: First Test, Centurion December 26-30: Second Test, St George’s Park January 2-6: Third test, Newlands January 9: First Twenty20, Newlands January 11: Second Twenty20, Wanderers January 16: First one-day international, Kingsmead January 18: Second one-day international, Wanderers January 21: Third one-day international, Buffalo Park January 25: Fourth one-day international, St George’s Park January 28: Fifth one-day international, Centurion