Representational photo: this is probably the kind of pitch they played on (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Representational photo: this is probably the kind of pitch they played on (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Cricket came to Argentina very early, in 1806-07. Started by homesick Englishmen, the sport quickly caught on with the locals, though the British expatriates and Anglo-Argentines dominated the sport. The Buenos Aires Cricket Club was founded in 1864; they played Uruguay in 1868, Brazil in 1888, and Chile in 1893.

The last tour deserves special mention, for the Argentines had to take a train to Mendoza at the foothills of The Andes and then cross the Andes on mule to play the match. It took them three-and-a-half days. Of course, the journey had been far from tedious. La Nacion, an Argentine newspaper, reported that “it is quite possible that in the future the lasting reconciliation between Argentina and Chile will be attributed to a few cricketers, accompanied by beautiful ladies.”

The newspaper also commented that the attire and luggage of the side “were the subject of much hilarity and jokes”, for they contained “the extravagant headgear, the goggles to protect the eyes from dust, the baggage, truly Noah’s Arks in which toothbrushes were dancing among flannel trousers, books and cigarettes, the proverbial luggage of English travellers.”

The tourists won the cricket series 3-0, then beat the Chileans at football, at tennis, and at billiards. The journey home was certainly satisfying.

The Primera División (started 1997-98) remains an annual contest. The Argentine Cricket Association was formed in 1913, and in 1926 they even beat Plum Warner’s MCC.

Argentine cricket has since lost out to football in popularity. Argentine President Juan Peron had ensured “difficult times” for Britons and Anglo-Argentines. To make things worse, Eva Peron, his wife, was not happy over the indifferent behaviour she received in Britain in 1948. The final blow came later that year when “one night Peronists burnt down the club house, removed the fences, and drove bulldozers all over the pitch” at Buenos Aires CC (The Times).

However, Argentina continue to remain the team to beat in South America — if you leave out Guyana, that is. The ICC website mentions that The Flamingos, the Argentine Women’s team, are the strongest in the sub-region and are “highly competitive against the likes of USA and Canada”.

The match in question dates back to 1859, five years before Buenos Aires CC was formed, during Justo Jose de Urquiza’s siege on Buenos Aires. Urquiza would defeat Bartolome Mire’s in the Battle of Cepeda to regain control of Buenos Aires.

However, there was another matter taking place in the vicinity. The cricketers (presumably British or Anglo-Argentine) at Buenos Aires were keen on playing cricket. Like any self-respecting cricketer, they refused to let anything as minor as a war to interfere with cricket matches.

Unfortunately, their cricket ground was on the other side of Urquiza’s army. In other words, they had to cross an entire army surrounding the city to play the match.

So they did what any sensible cricket team would do. They chose representatives who went to Urquiza (remember, the man was trying to take control of Buenos Aires) and must have said something on the lines of “excuse me, while you Argentines keep fighting, can we cross your army and play some cricket?”

It is not very clear whether the shock, the ridiculousness of the request had an influence on Urquiza. It is not known whether the cricketers were actually optimistic of obtaining permission. Whatever it was, it worked…

When they finally reached the ground, there was another surprise waiting for them: there was a dead horse on the pitch. But then, if crossing the lines during a war could not deter them, an equine corpse had no chance (after all, it wasn’t being dropped off a castle!). The game continued with the horse on the pitch.

The score and the outcome remain unknown, as are the team names, but somehow I suspect there were a lot of extras bowled.