SA look forward to Pakistan trip but not bio-secure bubble

SA Test captain Quinton de Kock
SA Test captain Quinton de Kock

SA's cricket team will head to Pakistan later this month for the first time in 14 years with captain Quinton de Kock excited by a new challenge but wary of the rigours of being stuck in another bio-secure bubble.

SA last toured Pakistan in 2007 when they won the two-match series 1-0 and return for two Tests and three Twenty20 internationals later this month.

"There are two sides to it," said De Kock, who began his tenure as SA's new Test skipper with a 2-0 home series win over Sri Lanka, completed on Tuesday with a 10-wicket win in Johannesburg.

"I'm excited to get over there and play cricket in what will be a new challenge. But the off-the-field stuff is another type of challenge. Bubble life is probably going to be the hardest challenge we will face out there."

SA were in a bio-secure environment for December's abortive limited over series against England and again for the two Tests against Sri Lanka.

"It's very unsettling and a little nervy. It's an accumulation of a lot of little things you are not used to plus the uncertainty of being caught in a lockdown, where you are then stuck in a place," De Kock said.

"That's the worst case scenario but it is something you do think about. But for now, we just have to deal with it in the best way possible."

International cricket has returned to Pakistan in the past 15 months following a militant attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians.

The country has hosted Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since September 2019, while England recently announced a short two-match 20-over series in October next year in the build-up to the T20 World Cup in India.

Meanwhile, SA coach Marc Boucher hailed a first series win for his side following a lean run of form over the last two years after they romped to an easy 2-0 triumph over Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

"First of all, it's just good to get a win under our belts," said Boucher.

"Our batsmen got among the runs, spent good time in the middle and so that will have given them a lot of confidence for our next series in Pakistan and then against Australia. They can build on that momentum."

After the Pakistan tour, SA host Australia in February and March.

"If you look at our bowling attack, there are only a handful of caps between them and so a lot of inexperience there," Boucher said.

"They learnt a lot of lessons and they learnt them very quickly as well. It's a group that is growing and as long as we see growth we are happy. The way they responded to a few harsh words that were needed at times was good and is something to build on."

SA had lost eight of their previous nine Tests, five of them at home, going into the Sri Lanka series at the end of a 11-month hiatus, having dropped to six in the world Test team rankings.

"By no means are we a finished product," Boucher warned. "There is still a lot of hard work to be done but the guys understand that.

"We are going to make mistakes along the way but as long as we keep learning from those mistakes, then we are heading in the right direction."

- Reuters


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