The Malta national team sealed a 2-1 series win over Hungary at Marsa last weekend, consolidating the side’s excellent record in the newly-formed European Development Cricket League.
From their last 12 internationals, Malta have won an impressive 10 matches. The victories over Hungary added to recent triumphs over Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The first T20 international was Andrew Naudi’s 50th appearance for the national team, second only to Michael Caruana (53 caps).
Batting first, Malta captain Nowell Khosla (21) and Chris Chellew (45) put on 59 runs for the first wicket.
Frank Spiteri (12), Ronnie Sacco (13) and a quick-fire 30 off only 16 balls from Haroon Majeed saw the hosts reaching an imposing 163 runs from their allotted 20 overs.
For Hungary, quick bowler Zeeshan Khan captured five wickets for 11 runs.
In reply, Hungary lost early wickets to Naudi and George Agius with the rest falling at regular intervals before they closed their 20 overs 50 runs short, on 113 for nine.
Shiraz Khan top-scored with 25 runs. Malta’s bowlers and fielders restricted Hungary throughout and the bowling honours went to Bikram Arora and Parth Mehta (three wickets each).
Home keeper Sam Aquilina captured two stumpings and a catch while Sacco, Chellew and Haroon Majeed took three excellent outfield catches.
The second T20 saw an improved batting performance by the Hungarians with Marc and Stan Ahuja scoring 48 and 51 respectively.
The pair combined in an 86-run partnership off only 13 overs. The Hungarians were especially severe on the Maltese bowling during the middle overs and seven sixes catapulted them to a competitive total of 151 runs for six wickets.
For Malta, Naudi, Khosla and Mehta took a wicket apiece.
The Maltese run chase stuttered throughout and the run-outs of Khosla (8) and Naudi (4) were particularly costly to the home side’s hopes.
Following the dismissal of Niraj Khanna for 15, a fighting partnership between Majeed (36) and Mehta (24) brought Malta back into the contest. However, the demise of Ronnie Sacco, Sam Aquilina and Malcolm Crabbe signalled the end for the hosts as they were bowled out for 133, handing victory to Hungary by 18 runs.
The third match was a 50-over. A more focused and disciplined effort in the field by Malta saw Hungary dismissed for only 123 runs in 40.5 overs. It was once again Stan Ahuja (44 runs) who held the Hungarian batting line-up together.
But, it was a real team effort by Malta and man-of-the-series Parth Mehta (four for 14) was well supported by all the other bowlers.
The home team’s reply began briskly with Nowell Khosla striking four early boundaries before he was clean bowled by fast bowler Zeeshan Khan.
Following the lunch-time presentation by Jane Lambert, the Australian High Commissioner to Malta, Frank Spiteri and Chris Chellew added an unbeaten 85 which sealed the victory for Malta with 27 overs to spare.
Chellew’s 62 made him the top run scorer in the series, while Spiteri’s 26 runs made him the first Maltese batsmen to pass 1,500 international runs for his country.
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