Inside Norte v. Sur, Argentina’s most traditional cricket game

It’s the biggest match in the local cricket season and the only three-day game played in South America

Norte v. Sur cricket match. Credit: Fernando Romero Núñez

Watching cricket from the wooden halls of the Belgrano Athletic Club feels like slipping back in time. Sitting at the scorer’s table, a man records the runs, wickets, and overs by hand in a book that contains results dating back many years. Next to him, a young man keeps the same score digitally, typing it into his phone to update the results live on an app. 

The Norte v. Sur, the most important game in Argentine cricket, has been played since 1891 — but today, tradition lives alongside modernity. The game sees the best players from clubs in the north go up against those from the south, similar to the All-Star games of major sports in the U.S.

The ledger used to keep scores. Credit: Fernando Romero Núñez
The ledger used to keep scores. Credit: Fernando Romero Núñez

Played over three days, it’s the only first-class cricket game played in South America, meaning matches that last for three or more days. The match takes place during Carnival in Buenos Aires because the four-day holiday (February 10–13) allows the amateur players to play the whole game without taking time off work.

The game harks back to the turn of the 20th century, when the expansion of Argentina’s railway network was in full swing, in no small part thanks to British influence and investment.

“Where [the English] put a train station, they put a club,” said Brian Roberts, former player and current Administrative Manager for the Argentine Cricket Association (AAC, by its Spanish initials). “The Norte v. Sur gathered the best players from all those clubs, with Cañada de Gómez [70 km west of Rosario, Santa Fe] as the divisory line.”

Over time, this line was dragged further south as British influence in Argentina faded. For instance, Belgrano AC, initially a South club, has been defending the North since 1995. Tradition, however, has never been forgotten, with a long list of families who can boast of having three or more generations of players take part in the game. 

Norte v. Sur cricket match. Credit: Fernando Romero Núñez
A batter in the Norte v. Sur cricket match. Credit: Argentine Cricket Association

Nowadays, Argentine cricketers have some more explaining to do. “The first thing most people think of is that I play croquet,” said Ramiro Escobar, captain of the South team and San Albano. North team captain Pedro Barón agreed, adding that it’s only when he points out that cricket is the second most popular sport in the world that people start to consider it.

The efforts the AAC is making to repopularize cricket in Argentina may soon change that. In addition to the long, three-day traditional game, Norte v. Sur is also played in a men’s and women’s T20 format and as an U15 fixture, creating a new generation of players who love this special fixture.

This inevitably brews a rivalry between North and South players, but there’s an even bigger feeling of companionship. Most players who feature on either side practice together for the national team. They also share the “spirit of cricket,” an unwritten law that states the game should be played in a sportsmanlike manner, and the love for its traditions, among them time-honored rituals such as teams lunching together and having tea at five.

“Since I was a kid in the stands, it’s always been the most important game of the season,” said Barón. “Being able to play it now and captain my team is a huge honor.”

The players also appreciate the challenges of playing first-class cricket, as the league is played in T20 format. With the longer time frames, Roberts insisted players adapt their game to a different rhythm and style. 

Team captains and referees for the Norte v. Sur game. Credit: Fernando Romero Núñez
Team captains and referees for the Norte v. Sur game. Credit: Argentine Cricket Association

“Playing over three days is very physically and mentally demanding,” said Escobar, with Barón adding that the first-class format requires a cooler, more strategic way of thinking than regular games.

The 2024 Norte v. Sur ended in a draw, as rain on Saturday and Monday allowed for only one day of competition. Alan Kirschbaum, who plays for the North and Belgrano AC, was chosen as the Most Valuable Player (MVP), while the South and Lomas Athletic Club’s player Lautaro Musiani was the Best Batsman, with 133 runs.

That leaves the record at 49 wins for the South, 32 for the North and 44 draws. So far, the game has only been missed nine times since 1891, most notably during the First and Second World Wars. From the looks of it, tradition seems very far from coming to an end any time soon.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald