Cape Town – South
Africa’s first exposure this season to one of the country’s smaller cricketing
centres will be a decent examination of future potential to that landscape when
they tackle England in the first of three Twenty20 internationals at Buffalo
Park, East London, on Wednesday evening (18:00).
has a capacity of around 15 000 and embattled Cricket South Africa’s bosses
will be hoping for something suitably close to a full house in the supposedly
most popular modern format – it is the Proteas’ first visit to the Eastern Cape
city since October 2018 when they beat neighbours Zimbabwe by 34 runs, also in
the T20 arena.
only the second T20 international ever staged at Buffalo Park – the first was a
defeat to New Zealand in December 2012 – so Wednesday’s clash with England will
represent the first visit of one of cricket’s “big three” commercial-clout
powers to the venue in the most abbreviated of the white-ball formats.
have previously also played 20 one-day internationals at the ground, with a
record of 14 wins, four reverses and two abandonments.
has only ever staged one Test match, back in October 2002 when Bangladesh were hammered
by an innings and 107 runs.
remainder of the T20 series against the English occurs back at established Test
centres Kingsmead (Friday) and SuperSport Park (Sunday), Australia’s dual white-ball
visit shortly afterwards sees a few other lesser venues get a solid slice of the
in Paarl – which has responded well for the Proteas previously, and got solid
gates for champions Paarl Rocks in this season’s Mzansi Super League – gets
the first ODI, and the other two matches in the 50-overs portion are in Bloemfontein
and Potchefstroom respectively.
public responses at any of those centres could well persuade CSA to contemplate
not only a more consistent allocation of limited-overs internationals to the
proverbial “platteland”, but also cajole them into reallocating more in the way
of Test activity, even, to lower-capacity stadiums with the potential for some
sort of improved atmosphere as a result.
of England’s noisy “Barmy Army” of travelling support during the recent
four-Test series here – all played at the more established major centres for
the format – served as a bit of a smokescreen for worryingly limited local
support at times for the Proteas.
controversy raged over the generous (excessive, many passionately argued) allocation
of tickets to English supporters for the prime New Year Test at Newlands, which
clearly thwarted the intentions of plentiful SA fans over the first few days’
play, the fact remained that when obvious gaps in the stands did occur toward
the business end of that engrossing match, Proteas fans hardly turned out in
A return to
work after the Festive Season would have applied in many cases, but it was
still a little sobering – and perhaps indicative of the extent to which CSA’s often
tawdry problems have affected spectator loyalty? – that with many still in
holiday mode on day five, Capetonian-based backing for Faf du Plessis’s team
was minimal despite the earnest quest to save the Test with eight wickets in
hand at the start of the day’s play.
The next few
weeks, then, offer less fashionable centres a tantalising opportunity to put
forward afresh their cases for broader recognition as hosts of the national
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing