Belize claim first Central American Cricket title
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Belize started steadily thanks to good innings from Conway Young (30) and Pradeep Perera (35), and at 132 for 4 after 22 overs, seemed well set to take their total easily beyond the 200 mark and set Mexico a daunting run-chase.
However, the introduction of spin and Gulshan Ahuja dramatically changed the complexion of the game, and 4 wickets fell for 6 runs to leave Belize staggering on 138 for 8. The hosts and favourites picked their way to a final total of 169 all out in the 32nd over, and the Mexicans justifiably felt they had put themselves in a strong position to pull off a stunning upset after their heroics in the field.
Ahuja dominated what was a good allround bowling display, finishing with superb figures of 5 for 26 in his 8 overs. With two stumpings, a caught and bowled and two further catches, his guile and deceptive pace and flight certainly mystified the Belize batsmen.
In reply, and in search of the Central American title, Mexico started cautiously but still kept the score ticking over to be in a strong position at 65 for 2 in the 20th over, just over a hundred to get in 20 overs with 8 wickets in hand. Opener Jamie Kay (20) and Nick Houston (22) had worked hard to set up an exciting finale.
But with the introduction of Belizean seamers Clarence Anthony (5 for 13) and Howell Gillett (3-17) into the attack, the advantage swung one last time, and from 65 for 2 Mexico's brave challenge was virtually extinguished as they crashed to 68 for 6, with 3 wickets all falling with the score on 68.
There was some spirited rearguard action, but eventually Mexico were all out for 91 in the 27th over, and Belize had claimed victory by 78 runs, and thus also the first Central American Cricket Championship.
An interesting and entertaining three days of cricket in Belize, and with plans already in place to play the second Central American Championship in Mexico in 2007, the success of the event, and the positive spin-offs it will no doubt provide for cricket development in the Central American region, seem assured.
Belizean batsman Eldon Wade was named Player of the Tournament, and the final placings were as follows:
3rd: Costa Rica