The Malta national men’s team visit Bulgaria this week to play eight T20 matches against their hosts between 23 and 29 September. The first four of these contests will be official T20 Internationals – the first ever such matches to be played in Bulgaria – and will be played at the National Sports Academy in Sofia. The remaining matches will be friendlies played 200km to the west in Gabrovo.
The series comes just a couple of weeks after the nation also successfully hosted a European Cricket Series T10 event for the first time. For the visitors, the tour fills a gap created by the cancellation of the Central Europe Cup that had been due to take place this week until a worsening COVID situation in Prague caused another event to be wiped from the calendar. The Malta Cricket Association had also previously announced that planned autumn tours of Ukraine and Romania would not be going ahead, also due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions, so this trip to the Balkans will provide what could be their only international fixtures of the year.
The hosts – ranked 52nd – will also be playing their first games of 2020; both sides had been due to travel to La Manga back in May for a European T20 World Cup qualifier, another event postponed by the virus. The Bulgarian national side were last in action for a friendly series in Turkey in November, and their only official T20Is to date came during a tri-nation tournament in Corfu a few weeks earlier. That event saw them win their debut match against Serbia and then lose to Greece in the round-robin stage, before gaining revenge over their hosts with an 18-run triumph in the final.
Malta have failed to win any of their first four official T20I games, losing twice to Spain in March last year and twice against the Czechs during the Valletta Cup in October (where they did, however, pick up a non-T20I win over Iceland). They will be hoping for that maiden victory in the Bulgarian capital in what is sure to be an intriguing series.
Following on from the T20I series, Bulgaria will use the friendly matches to give chances to players who will be eligible to represent the nation in official ICC matches from next year. Speaking to Emerging Cricket, Bulgarian captain Prakash Mishra said “We are focused on building a strong national team with experienced players, while also working towards our vision of playing with 50% native players”. He added that “playing four T20 matches in Gabrovo with national team players will provide a boost to local players and clubs for the future”.
After a difficult European summer, with very limited international cricket, this bilateral series will surely be welcomed by both sets of players as well as Associate fans around the world.
23 September: 2 x T20Is, Sofia (10:00 / 14:30 EEST)
24 September: 2 x T20Is, Sofia (10:00 / 14:30 EEST)
26 September: 2 x T20s, Gabrovo
27 September: 2 x T20s, Gabrovo
Squads (for the T20I series)
Bulgaria: Prakash Mishra (captain), Hristo Lakov (vice-captain), Boiko Ivanov, Sulaiman Ali, Kevin Chris D’souza, Bakhtiar Tahiri, Ishan Aravinda de Silva, Delrick Vinu Varghese, Ivailo Katzarski, Rohan Bhavesh Patel, Hristo Ivanov, Kiran Disan, Atagul Ahmedhel, Fayaz Mohammad, Zain Asif (reserve)
Malta: Sam Aquilina (captain), Amar Sharma (vice-captain), Samuel Sanish, Varun Prasath, Gopal Chaturvedi, Michael Goonetilleke, Ravinder Singh, Salu Kanakali Thomas, Haroon Mughal, Zeeshan Khan, Washeem Abbas, Sujesh Appu, Heinrich Gericke, Noshair Akhter, Suhrid Roy (reserve)
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