Argentina host to a perennial classic
Following the superb beach cricket festival tournament which the Argentina team put up a spirited performance, the focus of the ICC Americas centenary celebrations shifted to Argentina. There cannot be that many fixtures in world cricket as historic as the annual three-day North v South match played in Argentina, and the 110th version of this timeless match was another great occasion.
The idea for the game was born in a railway station in the far northern city of Tucuman, when the proposal was made and accepted to challenge Buenos Aires, and a dividing line between north and south set about 350km north of Buenos Aires, a little north of Rosario. Early in November of 1891, the cricketers of the North travelled to play the South at Palermo in Buenos Aires, and the legendary tale of this famous game had begun.
Played over two days in November, the North won this first contest by three wickets – South 102 and 124 ; North 183 and 45 for 7. Including that first game, there have been a total of 109 matches, South having won 44, North winning 26, with 39 drawn (including washed out) matches. The match has been played consistently since 1891, except for the War years, 1916 to 1918, and 1942 to 1945.
This year, the big game was designated the ICC Centenary event, and it is relevant to note that in 1909, the North and South was already in its 18th year, the match played at Hurlingham on February 21, 22 and 23. South were the victors the year the ICC was born, winning by 119 runs – South 213 and 261 for 4 dec; North 69 and 286.
It is fitting that Belgrano Athletic Club hosted the match in the ICC Centenary year, as it was also the venue of the North v South Centenary match, in 1999, the 100th contest, a match won by the North by five wickets – South 237 for 7 dec and 150 ; North 244 for 5 dec and 144 for 5. The 100th match was also the 50th played at Belgrano, and this year will be the 54th game at the great ground.
Kenneth Bridger, in the foreword of his book North and South – A History Of The Annual Cricket Classic In Argentina, writes with some insight and reverence about the game: “That is has survived is a triumph to the spirit and love of the game; many times through the years it has been on the point of folding up or changing its name, but always wiser councils sought ways and means to keep it going.”
That was written in 1974, and 35 years on, the unique spirit and love of the game in Argentina is shining as strongly as ever. For the record the South won by eight wickets. Grant Dugmore, ICC
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa