A new turf-wicket facility in North Carolina is set to be announced as host of the 2020 World T20 regional qualifying tournament scheduled for September 16 to 23, according to multiple ESPNcricinfo sources. The top two finishers out of the four-team event - featuring hosts USA, Canada, Belize and Panama - will advance to the Americas regional qualifying final in 2019 where Bermuda and Cayman Islands await.
The September tournament would be held at Church Street Park, a $5.2 million dedicated cricket pitch opened in the Raleigh suburb of Morrisville in 2015. The ground's address is 5800 Cricket Pitch Way, highlighting the support in the local Morrisville community whose 25,000 population includes a 30% South Asian demographic. In addition a natural-turf wicket, the ground has floodlights that are good enough for club cricket regulations but not believed to be adequate for international cricket.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that visiting teams for the World T20 regional qualifier have already been notified that Raleigh has been tentatively pencilled in as the host site. However, an official announcement for the host city has yet to be made despite the tournament's scheduled start less than two months away.
Multiple sources have confirmed that local cricket officials in the area are hosting ICC officials this weekend for a final inspection of the pitch and facilities at Church Street Park to make sure it is suitable for international cricket before giving the all-clear to assign it as the tournament host site. Church Street Park has hosted national junior tournaments and regional tournaments for senior men's cricket before. It was also used as one of eight sites for USA Cricket regional combines this spring, but it has never hosted an international tournament.
If the North Carolina venue does gain the hosting assignment for the T20 Qualifier, it will also most likely host the 2018 Auty Cup between USA and Canada as well. However, if Church Street Park fails its ICC inspection this weekend, the most likely venue to host both the T20 Qualifier and the Auty Cup would be Woodley Park in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys. Woodley Park hosted the Auty Cup and WCL Division Four within weeks of each other in October 2016.
Sources have told ESPNcricinfo that USA Cricket and Cricket Canada officials have been engaged in discussions to hold the Auty Cup immediately after the conclusion of the T20 Qualifier to save on travel costs and streamline logistics. The Auty Cup would most likely remain a three-match 50-over series format, with USA using it as preparation for ICC WCL Division Three that is due to be held in October or November at a location yet to be announced.
Church Street Park is used regularly on a weekly basis by the Triangle Cricket League, which was founded in 2009 to support the rapidly growing cricket community in the area of North Carolina, known as the Research Triangle. The 'Triangle' is a geographic reference to the major university cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, which are less than 25 miles apart and home to North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina respectively.
Church Street Park is located four miles southwest of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Due to its proximity to the Research Triangle, it also has strong local support infrastructure that makes it an appealing venue to host international tournaments.
One of the most prominent supporters of the facility and cricket in the North Carolina community is Alvin Kallicharran. The 69-year-old former West Indies opening batsman has been a North Carolina resident since 1995 and continues to do youth coaching in the area. The fruits of that labor are starting to show as Smit Doshi emerged last year from North Carolina junior cricket to be picked at age 15 as the youngest player in the USA U-19 squad that went to Toronto for the U-19 World Cup Qualifier.
Then-ICC head of global development Tim Anderson led an ICC delegation that also included the regional development manager Ben Kavanagh and ICC Americas high performance manager Tom Evans to visit the Church Street Park site when it first opened in 2015 and highlighted the venue's potential as a future tournament host site.
"There's not a lot of good cricket grounds in America and you guys, you've got one," Anderson was quoted by Raleigh's The News & Observer newspaper as telling Morrisville officials during an open public meeting in November 2015. "This is beautiful. We were saying - we're all from Australia - and this would be a good cricket ground in Australia."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna