Colombia hosted the South American Cricket Championships for the first time in history.
The South American Cricket Championships (SACs) were held at Los Pinos Polo Club in Mosquera, between August 23-26, and showcased the best South America (and Mexico) has to offer in both men’s and women’s cricket.
Brazil, Chile, Peru and – for the first time – Mexico did battle in the women’s tournament, meaning the two competitions in total brought together nearly 200 members of the cricketing community from across the continent. It was undoubtedly the largest ever cricketing event in South America.
Not only that, but all matches played between the women’s teams from Brazil, Chile and Mexico were officially-recognised ICC (International Cricket Council) T20 Internationals for the first time.
In other words, the women’s games – for the first time – offered those three nations the chance to compete for official ranking points. Brazil took full advantage by winning all four group games and romping home in the final against Chile with a 92 run victory.
Peru also participated in the women’s tournament but games involving the team could not be officially recognised matches, given not all their players met the ICC residency requirements.
Home team hope
In men’s cricket, the ICC’s granting of full international status to games between associate members will not come into effect until 2019. In any case, Colombia has not yet met the ICC’s stringent requirements to become a member nation and was therefore the first non-ICC member to host the SACs.
On the pitch, the home team battled valiantly, winning four games out of seven. This was good enough for fourth place in the final standings but not good enough for a finals berth, after two close losses. First up, Brazil proved too strong despite Colombia putting up a promising score of 129 off the back of a classy 44-run effort from Christopher Laas. Brazil left-hander Umar Saleem’s solo effort – posting an unbeaten century – was enough to secure a win off 17 overs despite Colombia getting rid of five of the top six cheaply.
Uruguay were next up and put the pressure on the Colombians by putting up 112 runs off the back of a swift 38 runs from Sidhant Vishual. Despite a promising opening partnership, the fact that no batsman was able to score above 20 proved costly for the locals.
Colombia had a better day two with a pair of gritty wins. Peru were cast aside by 17 runs despite Colombia only setting a 99-run target. The locals then went on to beat Costa Rica by a single wicket in thrilling fashion. A 25 run last wicket partnership proved to be the highlight of the tournament as the win was secured with one wicket in hand.
A loss against Mexico followed, meaning Colombia needed to win both remaining games – and hope other results went their way – to win the final. Fortune didn’t smile fondly on the locals, and the final was not to be despite victories over Argentina and Chile.
Mexico men’s went undefeated throughout the entire competition, defeating Uruguay convincingly in the final.
The tournament was also a great success off the field, with an unprecedented level of social integration between the 12 teams. Having all the matches at the same site made the event a veritable festival of cricket.
Cricket Colombia’s Andy Farrington, who led the organisation of the event, was pleased with the hosting of the tournament.
“There are a few important outcomes for us,” he explained. “Primarily we want the ICC to see that we’re able to compete and host a tournament like this, but that we’re one of few without ICC support. Secondly, by hosting this event we have the opportunity to play with guys who normally can’t travel to play in other tournaments.”
Related: Colombia finished fifth on the SACs 2016
Although there was disappointment, this Colombian cricket team can most certainly hold their heads high. Close losses that could have fallen the other way provide hope for the 2019 tournament, scheduled to be in Peru.
Colombian cricket team member Olly West is optimistic about the opportunity to build on this tournament and further the cause of cricket in Colombia.
“Next up, in the short term, is the triangular tournament in Cali in November. Medium term is to find a permanent ground in Bogotá. Long term is to increase development of the game among locals, then potentially aim for ICC associate status in the future.”
For now, however, Colombian Cricket can hang its hat on a successfully and professionally run 2018 SACs that was not only able to provide great cricket, but also an incredible sense of camaraderie amongst the Latin American cricket community.