The seventh edition of the bi-annual tournament came to Mexico City at the historic Reforma Club, where cricket has been played since 1894. Whilst being the seventh edition of the tournament, there was a little extra at stake this time, being the first time the ICC has given these international matches official T20I status.
Hosts Mexico were joined by Panama, Costa Rica, Belize and a touring MCC side featuring former Pakistan international Nadeem Kahn. MCC cruised through the round-robin stage unbeaten and were joined in the final by a young Belize side, who advanced thanks to a narrow 9 run victory over Panama.
In the final, Belize got off to the perfect start, Glenroy Reynold taking the wicket of opener Guy Balmford – who had earlier smashed 109 not out against Costa Rica – for a duck. MCC steadied the ship and at 75-1 in the 9thover, looked well set to make a big score. The wicket of James Hawley triggered a collapse, however, which saw MCC reduced to 108-9 with 2.2 overs left.
Despite a late blitz from Dan Lewis-Williams, who bludgeoned 31 off 18 balls, Belize will have been happy to restrict MCC to 137/9.
In reply, Belize appeared to be cruising at 72-0 and 118-1. The wicket of Andrew Banner seemed to inspire MCC who took four wickets for only nine runs, setting up a nervy finish. The cool head of captain Kenton Young eventually saw Belize home, reaching their target with ten balls to spare and sparking jubilant scenes.
The effervescent Belize side were deserving victors, having been a joy to watch and playing with boundless enthusiasm. They look set to flourish over the next few years with seventeen-year-old Garret Banner (2-15), twenty-year-old Andrew Banner (53) and twenty-two-year-old Aaron Muslar (3-19, 20) particularly impressive.
In the Women’s tournament, Mexico entered the final as favourites, having comfortably won their previous two games. However, underdogs Costa Rica started strongly with early wickets and when Odalis Flores Rios pinned the dangerous Anjuli Ladrón LBW, Mexico were struggling on 15-3.
The Mexicans recovered with a superb partnership of 85 from María Pacheco and Ana Laura Montenegro. The partnership was finally broken by an outstanding diving catch from Amanda Bolaños to dismiss Pacheco, with the score on 117 after 17 overs.
This bought Caroline Owen to the crease with Montenegro and some late big-hitting took the score to an impressive 158.
Costa Rica’s reply was soon in trouble, Tania Salcedo removing both openers with the score on 12. The third wicket partnership of Sofia Bolaños and Melissa Barboza was gaining momentum, when excellent glovework from Montenegro saw Barboza stumped with the score on 36. This triggered a collapse in which the impressive Fernandez sisters Erica and Eileen shared four wickets. The runs dried up and Costa Rica finished on 108-8, with Mexico being crowned champions by 50 runs.
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were played at a high skill level and demonstrated that cricket is truly a global sport. It was delightful to see the spirit in which it was played and particularly the women’s tournament, which saw opposing players congratulating and encouraging one another throughout.
Hopefully cricket in the region can continue to grow and has a healthy future…roll on Costa Rica 2021!