St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth is set to regain the Boxing Day Test, Graeme Smith revealed at the post-match presentation following his team’s victory over Australia.
Although not full for this Test, there was a livelier atmosphere – helped, in part, by the famous band – than Kingsmead in Durban managed to produce when handed the Boxing Day encounter that was reinstated last year after being ditched in 2012 in favour of Twenty20 internationals.
Most recently that involved Jacques Kallis’ farewell to Test cricket, against India, but there were relatively small crowds across all five days despite the final appearance of one the game’s greats. Even when the gates were thrown open on the final day the crowd only reached 7000 at a venue that can hold 25,000. Across the first three days there was an average crowd of 9000, the best at Kingsmead in recent years, but still disappointing for a festive season Test.
It will be St George’s Park’s first Boxing Day Test since 2007 when it hosted West Indies in a match that the visitors won. West Indies are scheduled to tour South Africa for a three-Test tour, the first of which will be played in Centurion from December 17. Newlands will host the new year’s Test after missing out in 2014.
“The Christmas Test is a premier fixture on our cricketing calendar and I hope the fans in Port Elizabeth will come out in their numbers to support the Proteas,” Haroon Lorgat, the CSA chief, said. “This is always a fixture that the players look forward to and I’m sure the PE fans will make it a special and jovial occasion when it returns this summer against the West Indies.”
CSA also announced South Africa’s schedule for the coming year that includes a maximum of 24 ODIs against five countries in the lead-up to the World Cup. The programme also includes six Tests between July 2014 and January 2015.
“Once we have completed our challenge for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next month, we will turn much of our attention to next year’s World Cup,” Lorgat said. “Building quality experience is a vital part of preparing our ODI squad for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The series of ODI matches we will be playing in these two countries will provide valuable experience for the players as they prepare for the conditions expected during the World Cup.
“At the same time we would want to respect the primacy of Test match cricket. The Sunfoil Test Series against the West Indies will be the highlight of our home summer. With the traditional New Year Test match at Sahara Park Newlands and a Boxing Day encounter at Axxess St. George’s, fans will be in for a treat as we continue to defend our No 1 status.”
CSA’s schedule means Durban will go without a Test for the second time in three years, while the Wanderers, which hosted the first Test against India, won’t get a Test.