The Swedish men’s national cricket team were in Brøndby this weekend (14–15 August), to take on the challenge of a three-match twenty20 international series against their Danish hosts. These were the first international games played by the Swedes since the introduction of global T20I status.
It was also the first series in charge for new Head Coach, Jonty Rhodes. The South African legend joined the Svenska Cricketförbundet (Swedish Cricket Federation) in September 2020. Abhijit Venkatesh captained the tourists.
Despite the presence of Rhodes, Denmark went into the series at Svanholm Park as favourites. Their last official T20Is were in June and July 2019, when they contested the T20 World Cup Europe qualifier in Guernsey, followed by a home twenty20 international series against Finland. The Danes are also in the CWC Challenge League on the path towards the 50-over World Cup. Freddie Klokker was their captain.
Game 1: Denmark won by 8 runs
Denmark 111 all out (19.5 overs)
Sweden 103/6 (20 overs)
Player of the match: Hassan Mahmood (Sweden)
Sweden won the toss and opted to put the hosts into bat on Saturday morning. The Danes scored steadily through their innings, but the Swedes never let them get away. Hamid Shah top-scored with a fluent 25 from 21 balls. Oliver Hald added 24 from 19 balls, including a couple of big sixes off the bowling of Rahel Khan in the 16th over as the batsmen tried to accelerate the scoring.
Denmark looked to have set a solid platform at 100/6 after 17 overs, but Hassan Mahmood conceded just 4 runs from the 18th, and took the key wicket of Hald from the last delivery. Mahmood returned for the last, conceding just three, trapping Abdul Hashmi lbw and finding Omar Hayat’s edge which carried to the keeper. Denmark were bowled out for 111, Mehmood claiming figures of 5/14. This was the first five-wicket haul for a Swedish player in an official T20I.
Sweden lost Rahel Khan for a duck and semeed to be heading for defeat at just 38/2 after 9 overs. Captain Abhijit Venkatesh (27) helped them into a better rhythm and they looked good needing just 14 more to win at 98/4 with 2 overs remaining. But Hald conceded just 3 runs from the 19th, leaving 11 required from the last over. Delawar Khan bowled Khalid Zahid and Wynand Boshoff in consecutive deliveries and was one ball short of finishing the innings with a double wicket maiden. Sweden ended 8 runs short of their hosts.
Game 2: Sweden won by 3 wickets
Denmark 135/4 (20 overs)
Sweden 137/7 (20 overs)
Player of the match: Hamid Shah (Denmark)
In the second game of the day, Sweden again won the toss and asked Denmark to bat first. After a rain delay, the Danish innings was dominated by a second-wicket partnership between Hamid Shah and Taranjit Bharaj. The pair added 93 runs before Shah was caught behind for 66 from 56 balls (6 fours, 1 six) in the 18th over. Bharaj picked out a fielder shortly afterwards, dismissed for an impressive 43, and the Danes ended their 20 overs on 135/4.
The game was evenly poised throughout the run chase, Sweden reaching 60/2 at the halfway point. Venkatesh was caught and bowled by Shah in the 11th and the required rate steadily climbed. Sweden reached 82/4 after 15 overs, still trailing by 53. The Danes leaked 27 runs in the next two overs as Boshoff took on the bowling, and both Hald and Aftab Ahmed sent down wide deliveries that beat Abdul Hashmi behind the stumps. The momentum swung again in overs 18 and 19 as Denmark kept things tight and dismissed Boshoff (32) and Zahid. Sweden required 14 to win from the last over.
Last over drama
When Delawar Khan trapped Rahul Gowthaman lbw on the first delivery, the game looked almost done at 122/7. However, Qudratullah Mir Afzal (13 not out) stunned the hosts. Delawar overstepped and the batsman scored two runs in addition to the no ball. He then hit the second legitimate delivery of the over back past the bowler for a boundary. Two singles and a two followed; 3 still needed and a super over was now a distinct possibility. Qudratullah ensured that was not required by smashing another straight boundary and raising his bat in celebration of Sweden’s first win in official T20I cricket.
Game 3: Denmark won by 6 wickets
Sweden 122/9 (20 overs)
Denmark 126/4 (19.1 overs)
Player of the match: Taranjit Bharaj (Denmark)
The sides returned to action on Sunday for the series decider. Denmark won the toss this time and asked the visitors to bat first. Sweden got off to a quick start with Khalid Zahid finding the boundary twice in the first over and Rahel Khan followed consecutive fours with a big six in the third. Zahid fell for 11, but Venkatesh and Rahel (35) continued to attack, taking the score past 60 in the 8th over. However, after both batsmen were dismissed in consecutive deliveries, the wheels fell off the Sweden innings in the middle overs as they collapsed to 85/6. Liam Karlsson and Dipanjan Dey steadied the ship before another cluster of wickets and just 5 runs from the last 2 overs left the Danes a target of 123 to win the series.
When Denmark were reduced to 37/3 after 8 overs, the game – and the series – were in the balance. The hosts took charge from here though. Bharaj hit a series-winning 63 not out from just 46 balls (5 fours, 2 sixes). Musa Shaheen provided able support (29 from 29). Danish captain Freddie Klokker joined Bharaj after Shaheen was lbw to the impressive Mahmood, and Bharaj soon finished things with leg glance to the boundary.
Denmark won the twenty20 international series 2–1, but all three games were closely contested. Rhodes will surely take plenty of positives from the way his side competed. Sweden get another opportunity this week, when they travel to Finland for a four-match twenty20 international series. Denmark travel to the Netherlands later in August for some warm-up games, before heading to Desert Springs in October for the T20 World Cup Europe qualifier. There they will take on Jersey, Germany and Italy for one of two places in the global qualifiers.