Article by: Ali Abdullah
South Africa will tour Pakistan for the first time since 2007 for two Tests and three T20Is in January 2021.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has confirmed the tour will comprise two ICC World Test Championship fixtures.
South Africa will arrive in Karachi on 16 January and will play the first Test at the National Stadium in Karachi from 26-30 January. The second Test will be in Rawalpindi from 4-8 February.
Lahore’s iconic Gaddafi Stadium will be the venue of the three T20Is, scheduled for 11, 13, and 14 February.
This will be South Africa’s first visit to Pakistan since the 2007 tour when it won the Karachi Test by 160 runs to clinch the series 1-0. Two subsequent series were played in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 and 2013.
Since 1995, the two sides have played 11 Test series with South Africa winning seven and Pakistan one in 2003. Against this background, Babar Azam’s side will be determined to end the 18-year series win drought and move up on the ICC World Test Championship ladder.
CSA Director of Cricket, 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.”
Pakistan captain Babar Azam said: “I am delighted that South Africa have confirmed their tour to Pakistan and I 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. Not only is this critical to our learning and development, but it is 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 opportunities to break into the national side and cement their places. 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.
After the tour is finished it can be said that cricket has finally returned to Pakistan as South Africa will be the first top rank team to visit Pakistan after a 2009 security incident. Cricketing nations are finally convinced that security is good enough to send their teams to Pakistan.
At this historic juncture, the COVID-19 global pandemic is imposing a two-fold toll on cricket. One: Upon their arrival in Karachi, the South Africa side will remain in quarantine for a time in the lead up to the first Test, following which they will hold training sessions and play intra-squad practice matches. And two: Pandemic safety protocols dictate against allowing spectators – whose animated throngs are half the glory of the game.
All five matches will be played in empty stadia behind closed doors – with fans sequestered in front of their screens. South Africa touring Pakistan on the quick heels of Zimbabwe is a good omen for Pakistan cricket. As more cricketing nations come to see Pakistan as a safe cricketing destination – and the pandemic subsides – Pakistanis can hope to watch more cricket firsthand and cheer their favourite stars.
Until then, cricket fans will have to make do with livestreams and telecasts.
SOUTH AFRICA IN PAKISTAN 2021 – TOUR SCHEDULE
26-30 January: 1st Test, Karachi
4-8 February: 2nd Test, Rawalpindi
11 February: 1st T20I, Lahore
13 February: 2nd T20I, Lahore
14 February: 3rd T20I, Lahore