Belize take Easter Cup in El Salvador
Last weekend four Central American nations met on the fields of Academia Britannica Cuscatleca (aka British School ) in El Salvador to compete for the second Easter Cup.
Named after the time of year when the first edition was played, it involved hosts El Salvador, defending champions Costa Rica, Easter Cup newcomers Mexico and favourites Belize, the Twenty20 event was a first time the small Central American nation had hosted an international.
The sun shone brightly, and with a wind keeping the fielders cool and the bails wobbling, the tournament was set.
The British School field had been cleared of its football goals and gym bars, a pitch-sized trench had been cut out of the centre field, a wooden underlay put down and an artificial mat laid on top. With a sound system playing, and a bouncy castle, food court and drinks available the players waited for the clock to tick down.
If rankings and experience were true measures Belize and Mexico would fight it out for top spot, with Costa Rica and El Salvador competing for third place
The tournament started with the biggest clash of the four games : Belize v Mexico . Once the anthems had faded and the umpires in place, some fireworks batting from the Belize opening pair in the very first over indicated, as good a spirit as the tournament was played in, teams were in it to win it.
The Mexican reply started equally impressively but couldn’t maintain the momentum and Belize in the end finished comfortable winners. Costa Rica look to Mexico as their target for improvement while El Salvador look to Costa Rica.
Some tight bowling and careless batting had Costa Rica posting a modest total as they opened with the bat. El Salvador recovered from a first-over loss to get their noses in front and seemed to be cruising, then a combination of nerves and improved bowling turned the tables and Costa Rica won to preserve their 100% record against El Salvador.
Day two began with Belize making another aggressive start, and despite a Costa Rica fightback in the second half, they posted a total that looked daunting.
And so it proved to be. With wickets falling early the Costa Rica middle order saw their challenge as surviving the 20 overs. This, to their credit, they managed however Belize had won easily again.
Up until now the pitch – with a few notable exceptions - had been true and predictable, the umpires consistent and calm and the scoreboard busy.
The wind had died down, drink were flowing and the shady tents were beginning to fill up with a pleasingly large amount of Sunday afternoon spectators, at least half of which were curious Salvadoreans.
The final game saw El Salvador risk batting first and it seemed to pay off with another strong batting start. The tail starts too early for this new cricketing nation however and although a decent total had been posted it didn´t look like it was going to be enough.
Blistering aggressive attacking by the Mexican opening pair had El Salvador flummoxed as they struggled to stem the flow of runs. Mexico won easily.
A closing ceremony followed with the appropriate thanks given to the school, the principal sponsors (Wegerich Natural Medicines & El Salvador/Canada Chamber of Commerce), some generous private donors, the many helpers, and the traveling teams. Last off the trophy table came the bottles of champagne.
A fine tournament had worthy winners and a group of exhausted but satisfied cricketers watched Belize pop the corks while a few thoughts drifted to the next regional tournament - the Central American Tournament, Costa Rica, April 2009.
Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo