Mexico cricket team tours Belize!

This blog title sounds like fodder for a Monty Python skit or some tabloid sports rag fielding a ridiculous banner to catch the eye of bored shoppers waiting at the checkout, but really it’s true and it happened in March 2006, in the sunny Carribean nation of Belize.

Yankee sceptics might scoff and chortle but cricket, that much maligned and misunderstood product of Colonialism, ranks second only to soccer in world popularity and particpation, and Mexico is playing its own small part in the movement as an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council who represent over 100 countries, incl other bastions of cricket culture like Qatar, Slovenia ansd Surinam as well as the biggies like Australia and England. (The ICC could well curate a true ‘world series’ but Snoozeball stole that domain and keeps it for their own singular amusement.)

For me the realisation that the inaugural Central American Tri-Nations Cricket Championship was fair dinkum came not when I was presented, along with the other 11 team-mates, with my official, embroidered, sponsored, commerative cap but when I saw those tall, black, very athletic Belizean fast bowlers practice their inswings and bouncers at about 90 mph. The cap was quickly swapped for a helmet.

The 3 nations involved were our hosts, Belize and challenged by Mexico and Costa Rica. A team from El Salvador was also going to come but they were having a coup. The slightly ridiculous part about the Mexican team was that we were made up of 4 Australians, 4 Brits and 4 Indians; narry a Gomez ni Gonzalez about us. The core of the team came from Mexico City where there is a very healthy competition between 3 teams that convene weekly at the magnificent oval at the Reforma Athletic Club. The rest of us came from as far afield as Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco.

This is us before we dirtied our creams in the match against Costa Rica.

(NB. the section of classic white picket fence which served as boundary and photo backdrop was no more than shown and even less after a fielder collided with it. The remaining 97% of the boundary was marked by a scorched line etched in the dirt.)

Now for those readers unfamiliar with the game, put the kettle on or better still mix a tall gin and tonic, and read because with a basic insight into the game the following might make a little more sense.

The venue was Lord’s Bank Oval in Ladyville, an outer suburb of Belize City. The pitch was a mat of woven hemp like an elongated doormat nailed over a concrete slab held down by 4″ nails driven into the clay soil through Belikin beer bottle caps. (This what you do if you don’t have a full time greenskeeper and dirty big roller to maintain a grass pitch.) For all its rusticity it played a true bounce and took spin but had none of the unpredictability of a turf wicket. The outfield was hard packed and super-fast. The appreciative crowd of onlookers which included several classes of local schoolchildren were scattered around the boundary but most sought the shade of tent awnings and ready access to the bar and tuck shop.

The 3 teams played 3 matches each of 40 over innings. On the Saturday, Belize, the favourites, easily out-paced and generally outplayed Costa Rica and won easily with wickets and overs in hand. Sunday saw us up against CR. We were not exactly a finely-honed team in peak condition but fortunately neither were Costa Rica.

We batted first and scored about 140 runs, all out. Costa Rica, fielding through the intense midday sun were sunburned and shagged and batted accordingly. Our fresh bowlers coupled with some attentive fielding made short work of a lack-lustre run rate and we were all back in the pavilion for some well-earned Lighthouse beers well before the sunset hordes of mosquitos decended and sent us all running for the tour bus.

Monday saw the big play-ff between the two victorious teams. We lost the toss and were sent out into the field. What followed was a truly impressive spate of bowling, some brilliant catches especially by the keeper, and the Belizean wickets, to everyone’s surprise began to fall at a rate whcih made the usually vocal locals shut-up and watch as the Mexican underdogs took control of the game. I mean, we were shocked too. Not even in our most optimistic hour would we have thought to have them changing pads as fast as they were able. We had ’em all out for about 130.

Overly chuffed with our performance we went in to bat for glory and renown but I think it was a case of overconfidence, as well as the bowling attack, which, even after a good opening start, made us lose wickets way too easily. Hitting out when we should’ve knuckled down, trying to whack it out instead of playing the game. Belize bowled, caught and lbw’d us in quick time. My own dismal performance and premature departure from the crease was the result of a particularly inelegant (albeit original manoevre), which had me flailing at a rising ball outside the leg stump and getting a glove to it but in the flurry of the pirouette I lost my balance and hit my own wicket…

But that’s cricket and when the fat lady finally found her voice it was to Belize’s well-earned victory. The end result was the same; a bunch of new found friends with a common sporting passion drinking beer and sharing stories.

One of the most endearing aspects of Belizean culture is their love of music and after each game there were impromptu sing-alongs to the accompaniment of banjo, guitar and even an electric piano. Dancing too courtesy of a well-oiled local. The music was a blend of lovesick hillbilly lullabys, Patsy Clyne tunes and Belizean Bluegrass. In the company of reggae which is the other half of the local musical tradition the mix was initially incongruous but entirely appropriate as it was performed with great emotion and sincerity.

The other most memorable feature of the event were the children. Keener young cricketers and enthusiastic supporters you’d never find. They made the 3 days a real family affair rather than just a sporting event. The addition of older locals completed the communal gathering. Fueled liberally with coldies and as much chicken, beans and rice as you could poke a plastic fork at, it was a completely well-rounded tour, culturally and sportingly.

For a full gallery of images from the tour visit :

For a gallery of images featuring Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, two popular islands within Belize’s extensive barrier reef complex, visit