South Africa cricket team will tour Pakistan early next year after a period of 14 years to play two ICC World Test Championship fixtures and three Twenty20 Internationals, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Wednesday.

The Proteas will first come to Karachi on January 16 where they will start the tour off with the first Test at the National Stadium from Jan 26-30. Their next destination will be Rawalpindi for the second Test from Feb 4-8 and then Lahore, where Gaddafi Stadium will host three T20Is on Feb 11, 13 and 14.

The PCB said all Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) will be followed and the visitors will remain in isolation in the run-up to the first Test in Karachi. Practice and training sessions will follow a regular schedule once the team clears the isolation period.

“South Africa confirming a tour to Pakistan and playing matches at the three major centers is fabulous news for Pakistan cricket and its fans. South Africa is one of the most popular sides in Pakistan even though they last played here in 2007, but the fans have been following their performances closely and now look forward to welcoming them,” said PCB Director International Cricket Zakir Khan.

He said the South African team had a “special bond” with the nation of Pakistan as a number of their star players visited Lahore with the ICC World XI in 2017.

Expressing his delight at the development, Cricket South Africa Director of Cricket Graeme Smith said:

“It’s pleasing to see so many countries making a return to Pakistan – a proud, cricket-loving nation. Cricket South Africa is delighted to be counted among them.

“As someone who has toured the country on more than one occasion back in my playing days, I know how much passion the people of Pakistan have for the game as well as the love and support that the Proteas enjoy there as a team. ”

Newly-appointed Pakistan captain Babar Azam welcomed the news and said he was looking forward to the contest.

“I am delighted that South Africa have confirmed their tour to Pakistan and look forward to captaining my country for the first time in a home Test at a venue where we recently won our maiden HBL Pakistan Super League title,” Azam said.

Azam said he was pleased that the Pakistan team will be playing more matches against teams “ranked above us”, and that it is, “critical to not only our learning and development but also an opportunity to improve our rankings across all formats”.

England team also Visit Pakistan in 2021

The announcement comes a month after the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed that the England team will tour Pakistan next year for the first time since a deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.

England will play two T20Is in Karachi on Oct 14 and 15 in a move hailed as a ‘significant moment for both nations’ by the ECB’s chief executive officer Tom Harrison.

“It’s a real pleasure to announce that the England men’s IT20 squad will be playing in Pakistan in October 2021,” said Harrison in a statement. “This will be the first time since 2005 that an England team has toured Pakistan and as such it represents a significant moment for both nations.”