Five key moments for SA cricket in 2019
Get out your diaries, stand by your calendars — here are five key moments to track in South African cricket in 2019:
That’s when the five-match one-day series against Pakistan starts at St George’s Park.
They have five more ODIs scheduled against Sri Lanka before the World Cup but the stronger, more aggressive, Pakistanis should give Faf du Plessis’ team a better idea of where there are — and where they aren’t — ahead of the tournament.
Along with the ODIs and three Tests, Sri Lanka will also play three T20s in Mzansi.
This is when their tour will end, at the Wanderers, marking the end of South Africa’s formal World Cup preparations.
All nuts and bolts will have to be tight, or as tight as they can be.
Years of planning by selection convenor Linda Zondi, coach Ottis Gibson, captain Faf du Plessis and a host of others will culminate at the Oval on this day — when England play South Africa in the opening match of the World Cup.
How the South Africans go in the rest of the tournament won’t be determined by their performance in this match, but it would help to go forward rather than backward first up.
Lord’s. The World Cup final itself.
South Africa have never been there, and in some ways they have the smallest chance they have ever had of being one of the last two teams standing — their recent one-day form has been patchy and they do not inspire the confidence of other sides South Africa have sent onto the world stage.
In other ways they are more qualified than all of those teams — Faf du Plessis is an excellent captain, Ottis Gibson has won the T20 version of the title with West Indies, and the absence of expectation is never a bad thing.
Difficult as it is to think about anything beyond the World Cup, the scheduled, to-be-confirmed start of a Test series in India is always worth noting.
And more so this time, what with the way South Africa imploded on India’s exploding pitches in November 2015 still uncomfortably fresh in the memory.
Triumph in the World Cup and in a Test series in India, all in the space of a few months …
What are the chances?