Report by Nasir Mahmood, International Team Manager and Head of Selection, Cricket Switzerland
The Swiss national cricket team are the champions of the Valleta Cup 2023, which took place in Malta from July 12-16, 2023. The Swiss team, even though not used to the scorching heat of around 40 C, managed to keep their cool and defeated all participants: France, Romania, Luxembourg and hosts Malta, twice.
The Swiss national team is now on 6-0 consecutive wins in T20is, which is brought about by the whole team contributing to the success. In the departments of bowling and batting, different players have stood up in different games and helped to secure victory, which brings a lot of confidence to the team that it has many match winners and all play as one unit. One more interesting fact is that the team has managed all 6 wins via a successful chase!
However, some weaknesses were identified, which was mostly around the fielding area, where dropped catches and misfields hurt the scorecard, but the team still managed to fight back and win the games.
Top performers of Valleta cup were:
Arjun Vinod: Man of the Match Final
Kenardo Fletcher: Man of the Match vs Malta
Faheem Nazir: Man of the Match vs France and vs Romania.
Osama Mahmood: Man of the Match vs Luxembourg
With the end of Valleta cup, this marks the end of international T20is for the Swiss National side. It was a great season for them as they played seven T20is, managing to lose only the first and then winning all the rest, coming to a total score of 7-1.
This season was also the first season of international captaincy for Ali Nayyer, who did a good job in leading the team, and making them fight in tough situations and winning the first ever international championship for Switzerland.
Brief summary of all matches is as below:
Game1: Switzerland vs Romania
The Swiss had their first game against Romania on 13 Jul. Winning the toss, the Swiss decided to field first. Ashwin and Ali gave a good start in bowling which was followed by a disciplined bowling attack from everyone and kept Romania to a total of 134/5 in 20 overs. Pick of the bowlers was Faheem who bowled 3 overs for 14 runs, taking two wickets.
During the chase, the Swiss lost their first wicket at 22 and then the second one at 34. However, it was the partnership of Faheem and Hassan which stabilized the innings. After the fall of Hassan and Izhar, captain Ali joined Faheem and took the game to the end. Faheem was the top scorer with 77* and man of the match. Scorecard: Switzerland vs Romania
Game2: Switzerland vs Luxembourg
The 14th of July was a tough day, as it was planned to play two T20i games in temperature reaching about 40 degrees.
The Swiss won the toss and decided to field against Luxembourg. It was an overall team effort in bowling, where all bowlers contributed with disciplined bowling. The pick of the bowlers was debutant Abdullah Rana who took 3 wickets in 3 overs. During the chase, the Swiss lost their opener Faheem in the first over. However, it was Osama who was the star performer with the bat, scoring 53*, supported by Arjun who made 42. Scorecard: Luxembourg vs Switzerland
Game3: Switzerland vs France
The second game on the 14th July was against the tournament favourites, France. With the first game ending at around 12pm and the game against France starting at 4pm, the team tried to rest for 3 hrs in the nice facilities of the Marsa Sports Club in Malta. The captain of France won the toss and decided to bat.
The Swiss started again with very disciplined bowling, which was led by Ashwin who bowled 4 overs in a row and giving only 19 runs in his 4 over spell. At one stage France were only 80-4 in 13 overs, and it seemed they would struggle to put on a good total. However, some poor fielding, dropped catches and less disciplined bowling at the death, allowed France to pose a competitive total of 148/4. During the chase, the Swiss had a great start, where the opening partnership was 84 runs in 10 overs. However, the Swiss lost both openers in the same over, and then Hassan took charge, scoring 39 off 29 balls, including 4 massive sixes. Some disciplined bowling from France, took the match to the last over, where 7 runs were needed off the last six ball, and eventually 2 runs off the last ball. Abdullah was the batsman on strike, who managed to score a boundary and secure the win for the Swiss team on the last ball. Everybody from the Swiss team tent ran onto the pitch to congratulate the batsmen, and also congratulate the French team on a fantastic match. Faheem was man of the match. Scorecard: Switzerland vs France.
Game4: Switzerland vs Malta
The fourth and final game of pool matches was against the host Malta. The Swiss captain decided to field after winning the toss. The pick of the bowlers was Fletcher who took 4 wickets for 24 runs, which helped to keep Malta to 156/9, despite the Swiss team losing Ashwin, one of their opening bowlers to injury. During the chase, Faheem was again the star and scored 63 with 4 sixes and 6 fours. He was then supported by Hassan who scored a quick 58 with 4 sixes and 6 fours, and helped to chase the score in 16.2 overs with the loss of only 4 wickets. Scorecard: Switzerland vs Malta.
Final: Switzerland vs Malta
After winning all their pool games, the Swiss qualified directly for the final on July 16 at 4pm. The opponents were Malta who had to play a qualifier on the same day and then play the final against the Swiss. Malta won the toss and decided to bat first. With Ashwin not fully recovered, Afif made his debut in the final. The game remained in the balance as Malta scored at a decent run rate and the Swiss side kept taking wickets. At the end, Malta were 164/6 which was a very competitive total considering the big outfield and the pressure of the final. The Swiss started with a quick start, but lost their in-form batsman Faheem in the 3rd over when the score was 28. This brought in Arjun Vinod to the crease, who played one of the best innings in the final under pressure. He looked at complete ease on the crease as he scored 67 in 44 balls with 9 fours and 1 six. He was very well supported by Osama who made 32 and played the role of anchor to give the strike to Arjun. The Swiss were cruising to the target when they lost both Osama and Arjun in the space of 6 deliveries. It brought Hassan to the crease, who then made it all look easy by scoring a rapid 38 off 19 deliveries with 3 massive sixes and 4 fours in 19 balls. The Swiss managed to chase the total in 18.1 overs to become champions of the Valleta cup 2023. Man of the Match was Arjun for his brilliant innings. Scorecard: Final, Switzerland vs Malta.