The first ever International cricket sixes tournament to be held in the Philippines took place at the picturesque fields of Clark on March 8 and 9 2008.
Thirteen teams, of which ten flew in to participate, took part in the inaugural Metals Exploration Philippine International Cricket Sixes, competing in Cup, Plate and Bowl divisions of the tournament co-organised by the Manila Nomads and the Asian Cricket Sixes Tour. The teams were joined by guest star cricketer, the former England and Surrey wicketkeeper Jack Richards.
Balmy weather and lush green surroundings were the setting for the tournament taking place on the huge Parade Ground at the fomer US Airforce base overlooked by Mount Pinatubo, the volcano which last erupted in 1991.
The official tournament hotel, the Holiday Inn, is just 10 minutes taxi ride from Clark airport. And with the the two full size grounds just a few minutes stroll from the Holiday Inn, even weekend athletes who had over-indulged more than usual had no excuses for tardiness, with hefty team fines undoubtedly levied on the transgressors.
In the field, competition was fierce but fair as a strong outfits from the Manila Nomads and Manila Indians competed against experienced overseas teams including acclaimed sixes maestros and fancied favourites the Shanghai Dragons plus the strongly tipped Gladiators.
Off the field, the sides were treated to free flowing San Miguel and sumptuous solids at the convivial Welcome Reception under the stars at Yat's International Wine Club, a wine bar & fine dining restaurant, plus the Gala Dinner in the Holiday Inn Ballroom. In an entertaining evening the 200 or so guests were treated to a lavish buffet dinner and amused by guest star Jack Richard's numerous recollections of how England last went about winning an Ashes series in Australia. Guests also had the opportunity to pose and have some merriment with several life size and lifelike cutouts of cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Matthew Hayden as the hotel had really gone to town decorating the room to a cricketing theme.
What was incredibly heartening to see at the event was a cricket team made up of Korean students, 100% Korean and playing in their first overseas tournament as the Korean Crusaders. A great bunch of lads, good competitors but joining in the wonderful cameraderie. It's not every day you see ethnic Korean guys playing cricket in the Philippines, in fact not surprisingly it's never happened until now. But that's the nature of sixes cricket tournaments, expanding cricket horizons and helping the game to develop sometime in the most unlikely of places. It's happened in Phuket, Macau, Shanghai and sixes cricket is now contributing to the growth of cricket in the Philippines.
Back to the fields, and sixes regulars the Bounty Buccaneers from Malaysia, led by Dave Nightingale, astonished themselves and others by grasping a place in the Bowl final amid a last ball melee, and then went on to a well executed and deserved victory over a talented and experienced CBB's outfit.
In the Plate the Shanghai Pirates who'd played well all tournament were pipped in the Final by the Taipans from Hong Kong, ably led by their skipper Romy.
And in the Cup final it was no great surprise that the Manila Nomads, fielding a very capable side in their own event, had won through to take on the fancied Shanghai Dragons. But they had little answer to the meaty bats of the sixes experts from Shanghai as Sanjay Anugula and Mike Tsesmelis both found the boundary with apparent ease. Only Henry Ahuja from the Nomads shone with the bat but it was not enough as the champions of the Macau and Hong Kong sixes tournaments added another trophy to their cabinet.
There was however some consolation for the thrillers from Manila when the umpires named Henry as the player of the Final for his miserly bowling figures of 0-3 plus 26 runs with the bat.
And what of Jack 'the Entertainer' Richards? He'd been appropriated at the Captain's Meeting against fierce competition by the Misfits from Singapore and they pressed his previously unheralded bowling skills into action. Jack helped them to a semi final too as the Misfits somehow rode the format despite losing a few matches. The losses didn't appear to dampen the Singsongers mood however as they consoled themselves very nicely in their hotel swimming pool later on.
The awards ceremony, MC'd by the Chairman of the Nomads cricket section Bill Bailey, was a splendid affair with plenty of silverware dished out to the deserving, and plenty of San Miguel flowing, most of which somehow found it's way over Mike Tsesmelis's head.
Bill thanked Mr Bernie Angeles from Clark Development Corporation who had agreed to the use of the exceptional facilities to stage the tournament, and presented him with a Manila Nomads plaque to mark the occasion.
The teams and tournament also showed their appreciation for Mr Gary Powell of leading sponsors Metals Exploration for their superb support of this first ever International Sixes tournament.
The first Metals Exploration Philippine International Cricket Sixes was a resounding success, staged at a wonderful location and with exceptional weather and cameraderie. Thirteen teams can pat themselves on the back for taking the plunge by entering a new tournament, especially the guys from Korea.
Bill Bailey said, "The spirit of cricket was in evidence throughout the tournament and the Philippine Sixes can only get bigger and better every year."
Mike Maher, Chairman of co-organisers Asian Cricket Sixes Tour said, "It's been a fantastic weekend, a real success and an exceptional first tournament. The Philippine Sixes is now firmly on the map, on the ACST calendar, and we expect in excess of 20 teams for the 2009 event in March next year." Mark Burns
Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo