Friday, 22 September 2023, 14:45
The first ball for the European Cricket Championship 2023 (ECC) will be bowled on Monday 25 September, kicking off three weeks of play at the Cártama Oval in Malaga province.
This is the third time the Guadalhorce valley venue has hosted the most important cricket event in Europe after two successful years. A total of 31 teams will face off in groups during the first three weeks, before the top-placed countries compete with reigning champions Netherlands XI in Championship Week. The final will be played on 20 October.
Jay Wild, Malaga-based liaison officer for international cricket events such as the ECC, said preparations for the highly anticipated tournament had gone smoothly.
"The technician at the ground today shook my hand and said everything is bang on and ready to go," he told SUR in English.
"It's a lot of work but to know that it's done to a standard we are all proud of helps get everything prepared in time and that's down to the positive relationships we've formed over the past two and a half years with the town hall, Cricket España and European Cricket."
Among the five teams to compete on the first three days of the championship will be home favourites Spain, who have made the semi-final in their past two attempts.
In their group are France, Czech Republic, Greece and Isle of Man, who are making their debut in the championship.
Wild is expecting between 80 and 100 spectators on the first day, eventually drawing crowds of more than 200 people per day by finals week.
In a country where sport headlines are dominated by football, tennis and cycling, the ECC gives children exposure to a new action-filled sport, Wild added.
"We have local schools coming along to watch and when you combine live cricket, with the outdoors and the cameras rolling it's a potent combination," he said.
"The sport becomes infectious for them and then they want to meet the players, commentators, be on television and want to whack, bowl or catch a ball - they get a hunger for the sport by watching it."
Malaga's weather made it a strong candidate to host the outdoor ECC, but the city also boasts strong infrastructure and transport options to be able to put on such a large event.
New flight connections and more planes are seeing record numbers of people visit Malaga, where 2.4 million passengers passed through the city's airport just last month.
"Malaga just makes sense for so many reasons," Wild said.
"It's become such a hub in Europe and what better destination to play in and show off to the world that cricket belongs in Spain and in Europe than Malaga."
The ECC was broadcast to about 35 million viewers worldwide daily last year, making it an important affair in the world of cricket and showcasing Cártama all over the globe.
Netherlands XI will be the team to beat this year after they were crowned the winners of last year's ECC following their victory over previous champions England XI.
Wild said to expect a fiercely contested tournament, and predicted Scotland - based on recent form - to lift this year's trophy.
While traditionally Scotland, England and Ireland are expected to be strong, Wild said France could be the dark horse of the championship.
Play starts at 11.30am on Monday with the home favourites Spain taking to the wicket against the French.
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