New Zealand Cricket deny schedule change for South Africa Tests

South Africa requested New Zealand cricket board a slight postponement of two Tests to be played from February 4 to 17 in order to avoid a clash with SA20 league. 

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has refused a request from South Africa to reschedule the two-Test series set for February next year. Cricket South Africa had made a request to move the matches to avoid any player availability issues with the SA20. 

The two Test matches are slated to take place from February 4 to 17 next year, which means the South African team must arrive in New Zealand in late January. This could directly affect South Africa’s franchise T20 tournament SA20, which is expected to run from January second week to February second week. CSA was hopeful of moving the Test series dates forward but NZC insists the fixtures are set in stone.

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Speaking to ESPNcricinfo on the matter, NZC’s manager of public affairs Richard Boock revealed that all the logistics for the series, including the flight booking and practice dates have been confirmed already. 

“These Tests have been part of the FTP since it was announced two years ago. We’ve collaborated and agreed dates with CSA, who have confirmed the tour, acknowledged the arrangements and have been in receipt of the schedule for several weeks. Flights have been confirmed, dates for the practice game have been agreed, and we’re looking forward to the squad’s arrival. The Proteas are a popular and formidable Test team and we view them as an important part of our home summer schedule,” said Richard Boock.

New Zealand also have a series against Australia lined up at home, which must end by late March before the Indian Premier League starts. And for that, they could not tweak the schedule for the South Africa Tests.

This development could force South Africa to field a second string Test side as a good amount of their top players will be needed for the SA20. South Africa’s centrally-contracted players are bound to both the SA20 and the national team but the CSA has given SA20 first rights to the players. That means the players will be obliged to represent their franchises over the national team. 

SA20 is due to have a mini-auction in September, where more domestic or international players are likely to be picked for the league. That should help CSA get a clearer idea on what squad to pick for the New Zealand tour.

There have been some serious concerns within the South African board of the quality of the squad they would be able to pick for the New Zealand series. However, they are unlikely to forfeit the series entirely. On Wednesday, CSA CEO Pholetsi Moseki stressed that they are committed to their bilateral programme, while also reminding that the SA20 is the priority in the current environment.

The New Zealand tour will be South Africa’s second assignment of the World Test Championship 2023-2025 cycle.

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