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Update South Africa's truncated domestic season to start on November 2

After months of damaging governance and political ructions in South Africa, a nugget of actual cricket news emerged on Friday in the shape of the release of the domestic fixtures.

But even this CSA couldn't get right. The announcement came in the wake of weeks of unchecked speculation about the schedule and a day after a social media conversation that included Shaun von Berg, the Titans leg spinner, revealed that the players already knew where, when and against whom they would be playing.

Only one of the seven men's and women's competitions will be sponsored, and the country's current lockdown regulations prohibit crowds. But at least there will be high level cricket in the country for the first time since March 15. The interruption has coincided with the regular off-season, but CSA could have helped their own cause by doing a better job of reassuring the public that they were planning for the post-pandemic normal.

A reduced schedule, compared to last season, starts on November 2 with the men's four-day franchise competition. The second-tier first-class men's provincial three-day games begin on January 7, and the men's franchise one-day cup on January 8. The women's provincial one-dayers start on January 9, the same day as the men's provincial one-dayers, and a day before the women's provincial T20s. The replacement for the postponed Mzansi Super League - a single round of matches featuring the domestic franchises - kicks off on March 10.

A CSA spokesperson said "selected matches" in the franchise one-day and T20 competitions would be broadcast on television "including all the semis, finals, and reserve days if required". For the first time since 2005-06, the franchise first-class championship will be decided in a final - over five days from February 25 to March 1. The season is set to end on April 18 with the women's provincial T20 final and the last day of the men's provincial three-day final.

"I cannot stress enough the importance of our domestic system and the important role it plays in our talent development pipeline for the Proteas," a release quoted Kugandrie Govender, CSA's acting chief executive, as saying. "One only has to look at the number of players who made successful international debuts in the three formats last season."

Senuran Muthusamy, Anrich Nortje, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Dwaine Pretorius, Rassie van der Dussen, Pieter Malan, Dane Paterson and Beuran Hendricks have all made Test debuts in the past year. Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Bjorn Fortuin, Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne and Daryn Dupavillon played their first ODIs last summer, and Temba Bavuma, Fortuin, Nortje and Pite van Biljon their first T20s.

Now for CSA's next trick: international cricket. South Africa's schedule remains blank, even though theories similar to those about the start of the domestic season - which have been proven bang-on accurate - have swirled about a men's white-ball tour by England towards the end of the year. Imagine that.


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