Argentina's calculated gamble of putting out their 'A' team to maintain their strong record in the South American Championships paid off handsomely as the young squad convincingly won the 4th South American Cricket Championships in Buenos Aires, played from 7 to 10 December, 2000.
Argentina's proud record stands firm, now reading played 13, won 13, with all four titles to their name. Argentina 'A' played positive calculating cricket, and apart from a brief flutter against Brazil, when eventual Player of the Championships, Matt Featherstone, was on his way to a scintillating unbeaten century, they were never in any real danger of losing their grip on the trophy.
Well captained by a steadily learning Esteban "Billy" MacDermott, also the current u19 captain of Argentina, other u19's in the squad also shone - Lucas Paterlini, Pablo Ferguson, Juan Pablo Pussi and Agustin Casime. Murray Davis and Rob Prata were great assets with their experience, and the rest of the team was under 25, which bodes well for the future, apart from the fact that all but two of the players are indigenous.
Gerben Zwaga was a revelation as a change seamer, two spells being particularly impressive, 8 overs, 1 for 13 against Brazil, and 5 overs, 0 for 5, against Chile in the final. Paul Ferguson is maturing rapidly as a cricketer, as is widely tipped to be Argentina's star of the next decade.
It was also pleasing to see the improved standards and competitiveness from other teams, especially Brazil and Chile, and Panama look to be a very competent outfit, perhaps let down on this occasion by lack of tournament experience.
Chilean national team captain, Clive Marriott, concurred that the standard was the highest ever.
"The teams in this championship, with the exception of Argentina who as we all know fielded an 'A' XI, were stronger than any previous competition. The quality of Guyana and Panama reflected this," Marriott said this week.
"We felt that our side for this championship compared with previous best side that took part in the Championships in 1995 when we lost the final to Argentina by five wickets."
Chile went into the final with two good hit-outs against the Guyana/Miami Masters and Panama, comprising players from its Indian community. It smashed 266 off the Masters' attack, taking advantage of the 35 C+ temperatures and sapping humidity. Hamish McKenzie top-scored for Chile with a technically sound 79, as the Chileans overtook the Masters total.
Condition was always going to be an issue for the mature Masters team, but it put up a good fight against Chile, with Bart Singh the foundation of the Masters' innings. Veteran left-arm off-spinner, Tony Adams, halted a middle order recovery by taking 4-26, including the scalp of Singh, leaving Guyana 36 runs short.
Other results made the final 'Green' Group match between Panama and Chile the climax to the group phase. Panama played its shots, scoring around a third of its 123 runs off the edge of the bat, with Adams even more economical, snaring four wickets for just 19 runs. Mackenzie (29) and Guy Hooper (42 not out) were the main scorers as Chile cruised to victory (124-4).
The Chilean stars of the tour were Mackenzie, Ian Scott and Hooper in the batting department, while on the bowling front Adams and Tim Messner, perhaps the tournament's fastest bowler were the pick. Hooper was also impeccable behind the stumps.
Peru, Venezuela and the Masters from Guyana also played their substantial part in making this tournament the success that it was, and it is not naive to assume that this tournament, began four years ago with four teams, will not grow from strength to strength in the years ahead. It is distinctly possible that the 5th Championship, wherever it is played, roughly two years from now, could well field as many as 12 teams.
Finally, hats off to Christian Tu on and his tireless organising committee, in running what was, for a country with a limited cricket infrastructure such as Argentina has, a huge logistical exercise, carried off with unlimited success.
In summary, Argentina "A" were deservedly crowned South American Champions, 2000, having qualified for the final, where they beat Chile, by beating Venezuela, Brazil and Peru. Chile in turn qualified by beating the Guyana Masters and Panama.
Brazil claimed third place thanks to "victory" in a bowl-out over Panama after their scheduled game was abandoned after a downpour. Brazil beat Venezuela and Peru, and came within 40-odd runs of the Argentines, while Panama had beaten the Guyana Masters convincingly, but slipped up against the determined Chileans when it mattered.
The Brazilians were said to be very pleased with their performance. Apart from Featherstone, Rob Hesketh also batted well, with 85 against Venezuela and 42 against Argentina. Alex Swan and Graeme Salt both took eight wickets.
Peru beat Venezuela to earn a play-off against the Guyana Masters, which was won by the Masters for them to earn fifth place, with Peru sixth. Venezuela completed the placings in seventh.