Portugal played host to Malta and Gibraltar for a T20I tri-series over the past few days and ran out winners by sweeping their opponents. Malta hosted Belgium for a series earlier this year but for Portugal and Gibraltar it was their first international action since a tri-series in October 2019. All matches, the first T20Is in the country, were played at the Gucherre Cricket Ground in the city of Santarťm.
In the first match on Thursday, the hosts won the toss and put Malta into bat. Zeeshan Khan top scored for them with 39 from 21 balls as they scored 146-8 from their 20 overs. Azhar Andani top scored for Portugal in their reply with 46, but it was knocks of 36 by Amir Zaib and an unbeaten 33 from 17 balls by captain Najjam Shahzad that secured them a six wicket win with 11 balls to spare.
The hosts had a day off on Friday as Malta took on Gibraltar, the latter batting first after being put in by the former. A second wicket partnership of 115 between Louis Bruce and Chris Delaney formed the backbone of Gibraltarís innings and it ended when Bruce was out for 60. Delaney was out soon after for 53 and the final total was 148-5.
Malta had little trouble chasing down their target after Bikram Arora and Zeeshan Khan opened with an 89 run partnership. Khan was the first man out for 47 whilst skipper Arora finished unbeaten on 59 to help his team complete an eight wicket win with 2.3 overs still remaining.
Gibraltar then had to do double duty on Saturday with two matches, first against the hosts in the morning. Portugal were put into bat and a remarkable 100 from 51 balls by Azhar Andani helped them record 217-8 from their 20 overs. Edmund Packard was the leading bowler for Gibraltar amongst the carnage, taking 3-34 from his four overs. The visitors didnít make much effort to chase down their substantial target, batting out their overs to score 121-8 and lose by 96 runs.
In the afternoon game they came up against a record breaking partnership by Malta. From 31-3 after 4.5 overs, the Maltese pairing of Bikram Arora and Varun Thamotharam took the score to 197-3 from 20 overs. Their partnership of 166 is the highest for the fourth wicket in all menís T20Is, and no wicket further down the order has a higher partnership either. Thamotharam was in imperious form, clubbing 104 at exactly two runs per ball.
Remarkably given their low total earlier in the day, Gibraltar made a decent fist of chasing down another huge target. Innings of 58 by Louis Bruce and an unbeaten 69 from 37 balls (with no sixes) by Chris Delaney helped them respond with 193-2, falling just four runs short of the Malta total.
Gibraltar had a fourth consecutive match this morning, and conceded a third consecutive big total, this time against the hosts. Azhar Andani continued the fine start to his T20I career, this time scoring 81 from 45 balls. His 227 runs in those first three games were the highest by any player at that point in their T20I career.
Amir Zaib also chipped in with 42 has Portugal reached 218-6 from their 20 overs. Gibraltar offered little resistance in reply and were bowled out for 108, losing by 110 runs. Sirajullah Khadim was the pick of the bowlers with 3-16.
With the tri-series already in the bat, the hosts took on Malta in the final match this afternoon. Choosing to bat first the visitors scored 132-8 from their 20 overs. Varun Thamotharam top scored with 36 whilst Sirajullah Khadim was the pick of the bowlers with 3-24.
The top scorer in Portugalís reply was that man again - Azhar Andani with 49 from 41 balls. His team secured the three wicket win with 2.1 overs remaining in their innings.