South Africa and Zimbabwe’s matches at Africa Games not given T20I status

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An oversight in communication has resulted in some matches at the recently concluded Africa Games being given T20I status while others were not.

The ICC confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that fixtures involving South Africa’s men’s and women’s teams as well as Zimbabwe’s men’s team were not considered T20Is but games between the other six men’s teams and seven women’s teams were regarded as T20Is.

Clarity over the official standing of the matches was required after Cricket South Africa wrote to the ICC over confusion around whether all the matches at the tournament were classified as internationals. In 2022, an ICC document titled “Classification of Official Cricket” recognised all T20 matches that are “played in accordance with the ICC Standard Men’s and Women’s Twenty20 International Playing Conditions and other ICC regulations pertaining to Twenty20 International Matches,” as internationals apart from matches involving A teams or age-group sides.

With that in mind, South Africa opted to send an emerging women’s team and a university men’s team to the Africa Games, as they were unable to field full-strength sides due to player commitments elsewhere including at the IPL. Zimbabwe selected an under-25 men’s side but sent a first-choice women’s squad. They won gold in both events.

The other participating countries, who are all Associate nations, sent their strongest available sides and understood themselves to be playing internationals, creating the confusion. It is not clear whether the onus lay with the African Games, the Africa Cricket Association (the continental body which successfully lobbied for cricket to be played at the Africa Games) or individual board to check on the status of the games or where the miscommunication occurred.

However, when the uncertainty came to the attention of South Africa and Zimbabwe, who are both Full Members, they had queries over whether the results would impact their T20I rankings. South Africa also had a particular issue over one of their players: 16-year old wicketkeeper Karabo Meso, who played at the Africa Games and was then named in their senior squad to play Sri Lanka in a home series starting this week. CSA wanted to ensure that Meso, if capped, would get her debut with the full-strength national women’s team and not with an emerging side at the Africa Games which they did not consider a full international team.

ESPNcricinfo understands that had the games been full internationals, South Africa would not have participated in the event.

A separate concern was also raised about the infrastructure in Accra, especially for cricket. CSA was worried about the suitability of the venues and on the intervention of the Africa Cricket Association, a ground consultant from Zimbabwe traveled to Ghana to assist with readying the pitch and outfield.

The cricket facilities were not the only ones which had questions over their readiness. The Africa Games were initially due to be held in August last year but postponed for seven months because not all facilities were completed in time. The event usually takes place every four years, in the year preceding an Olympic Games, and this was its 13th edition. This is the first time cricket has been played at the tournament.

The Africa Games organisers were contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of writing.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket

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