Peter Eckersley reports on the opening of the season in Portugal. The Portuguese season starts this weekend with NATO playing Casuals and Cavaliers meeting A.C.C. Hindu C.C. and Oporto are the other teams competing in Portugal's domestic competition.

The Kendall Cup fixture between Lisbon & Oporto will be held this year in Oporto on the weekend of 10th & 11th July. It is traditionally a two-innings match played over two days with three two-hour sessions of play each day - the final hour of the final session on the second day comprising a minimum 20 overs.

Oporto are the current holders of the cup having won it against a very weak Lisbon side in 1996, retaining it by virtue of two subsequent drawn games in 1997 & 98.

Cricket in Portugal is still in the development stage - although there are records of the game being played here as long ago as 1736 and there has been an annual fixture between Lisbon & Oporto played every year since 1861.

Our national squad - which comprises mainly Portuguese nationals who have been brought up in southern Africa or in the former Portuguese colony of Goa plus a handful of long-term residents of British & Asian heritage - have little opportunity to play more than a few matches per year. We are due to compete in the E.C.C. Championships in Corfu in September and that will probably be the only "international" matches that we shall have this year - although the M.C.C. are sending a team here earlier that month.

Basically the game here is played in three centres: Oporto, Lisbon & Algarve. The Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club (to quote its full title) has been in existence since 1861. Many of the old traditions upon which the club was founded still exist today. Gentlemen are required to wear a tie in the bar; children are not allowed into the reading room; membership is by invitation and may be passed down from father to son. There is still a very strong influence of the port wine trade with famous names like Delaforce, Symington, Churchill & Graham liberally dotted throughout the club's scorebooks.

The game in Lisbon is somewhat more cosmopolitan as befits a capital city.

Although nurtured under the influence of ex-pat workers for several generations, there is nowadays a much stronger Portuguese colonial influence. The former Portuguese enclave of Goa (in southern India) has produced a number of cricketers as indeed have both Mozambique & Angola.

The 1974 revolution in Portugal triggered off many changes in Portuguese cricket. Immediately after the revolution when the communists gained power, there was a large exodus of ex-pats who, to quote a phrase, "took their bats & balls home with them!". Over the ensuing years, they were to be replaced by numbers of what the Portuguese called "Retournados" i.e. residents of the former colonies in Africa. Many of those who fled the Marxist regimes in the newly independent countries of Mozambique & Angola made their way home to Portugal via Rhodesia & South Africa and in doing so exposed themselves and their children to the culture of cricket which still remains so strong in that region today.

Cricket in the Algarve was similarly imported from southern Africa. The climate in the Algarve is such that cricket may be played all year round although in the summer months at the height of the tourist season the majority of the regular participants find themselves too busy catering to the tourists to devote much time to cricket. Algarvean cricket has therefore developed along the lines of a commercial venture where excellent facilities are on offer to visiting teams from the U.K. - for a price.