LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), on Wednesday, finally anno­unced the itinerary of South Africa’s tour to Pakistan, which will commence from Jan 16 and include two Test matches and a three-match T20 International series.

Ranked among the top sides in world cricket, South Africa will be touring Pakistan after a gap of 13 years. The tour holds tremendous significance since the leading teams in world cricket including as England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and others had refused to tour Pakistan due to security reasons following the ghastly terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009.

During this period of near isolation for Pakistan cricket at home, the PCB continued its efforts to restore international cricket in Pakistan and still managed to hold home series against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bang­ladesh, the West Indies, Kenya, a World XI and the MCC teams. These tours were a great help in restoring the confidence of other international teams in Pakistan as cricket hosts and, now finally, leading teams such as South Africa, England and New Zealand are ready to tour this country once again.

“South Africa will arrive in Karachi on January 16 and will play the first Test at the National Stadium in Karachi from January 26-30. They will then travel to Rawalpindi where the second Test will be played from February 4-8.

After the Tests, the iconic Gaddafi Stadium, which is the headquarters of Pakistan cricket, will be host the three T20Is which are scheduled for Feb 11, 13 and 14 respectively,” a PCB press release said on Wednesday.

“Upon arrival in Karachi and in the lead up to the first Test, South Africa will observe an isolation period following which they will hold training sessions and play intra-squad practice matches,” it further said.

This will be South Africa’s first visit to Pakistan since the October 2007 tour when they won the Karachi Test by 160 runs to clinch the series 1-0. The subsequent series in 2010 and 2013 between Pakistan and South Africa were played in the United Arab Emirates.

Since 1995, the two sides have played 11 Test series with South Africa winning seven and Pakistan one in 2003. Now Babar Azam’s side will be determined to end the 17-year win drought against SA and will be aiming to move up in the ICC World Test Championship ladder.

South Africa are ranked sixth in the ICC Test team rankings while Pakistan are placed at seventh.

As for the T20Is, this will be the first time the two sides will meet in the shortest format in Pakistan, having previously played the two T20 series in the United Arab Emirates. South Africa won both the series.

PCB Director Inter­national, Zakir Khan said: “South Africa confirming a tour to Pakistan and playing matches at three major centers here is a fabulous news for Pakistan cricket and its fans. 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 once again.

“Cricket South Africa (CSA) and its players have a special bonding with Pakistan as a number of their star players visited Lahore with the ICC World XI in 2017 and have appeared in the HBL Pakistan Super League too with former skipper Faf du Plessis featuring in the playoffs in Karachi last month.

“2021 promises to be a bumper and most exciting year for Pakistan cricket fans after a very long time,” said Zakir. “After South Africa, we are scheduled to host New Zealand, England and the West Indies, while our away series are against South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Afghanistan and the West Indies.

“If these high-profile and exciting series are topped up with the Asia Cup 2021 and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, Pakistan cricket fans can brace themselves for a very exciting and action-packed year,” added Zakir.

CSA Director of Cricket, former Test captain Graeme Smith said: “It’s pleasing to see so many countries making a return to Pakistan — a proud, cricket-loving nation. Cricket South Africa is delighted to be counted among them.

“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 to our security contingent when they travelled over there a few weeks ago,” said Smith. “The report on their findings and recommendations gives us confidence as an organisation that all of our team’s security, playing and accommodation needs will be met and that the well-being of the team will be the top priority. We look forward to embarking on this historical tour.”

Pakistan captain Babar Azam said: “I am delighted that South Africa have confirmed their tour to Pakistan and look forward to captaining my country for the first time in a home Test at a venue where we recently won our maiden HBL Pakistan Super League title.

“Looking at the calendar of international cricket in 2021, I am pleased we are playing more against the sides which are ranked above us. This is critical to not only our learning and development, but also an opportunity to improve our rankings across all formats.

“With the amount of cricket that is lined up in 2021, I am excited that a number of promising and budding cricketers will get chances to break into the national side and cement their places,” said Babar.

“This is critical to Pakistan’s future in developing a strong and formidable nucleus of players who can step up and challenge any opposition anywhere in the world.”

Schedule

Jan 26-30: 1st Test (Karachi)

Feb 4-8: 2nd Test (Rawalpindi)

Feb 11: 1st T20I (Lahore)

Feb 13: 2nd T20I (Lahore)

Feb 14: 3rd T20I (Lahore)

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2020

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