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GAME ON: Cricket’s development in Malta phenomenal say national team duo

Ben Camille explores the world of cricket in Malta during this week’s edition of GAME ON as he meets national team players Varun Prasath and Zeeshan Khan at the Marsa Oval.

Prasath and Khan explained to Ben Camille how the sport has blossomed during the past few years in Malta with 16 clubs from Malta and Gozo registered with the Malta Cricket Association.

“When I moved here in Malta in 2014, there were hardly any players and we had only five clubs,” Khan said.

“But since 2017, the development has been phenomenal. The sport has grown a lot in popularity and today we have over 500 players and 16 or 17 clubs, two in Gozo and the rest in Malta.

“For many years, nobody knew about the sport of cricket in Malta but today if you had to go to a European country like the UK, Ireland and Belgium they will tell you who are the top cricket players in Malta.

“If you look at the rankings, in 2018, Malta was ranked 82nd in the world and today we are placed 52 second.”

On his part, Prasath explained how young players can take up the sport.

“As an association we group these youngsters together and we teach them the basics of the sport. They continue their development at U-15, U-17 and U-19 and then they can choose a club with whom they can play.

“But whoever is interested can contact the Malta Cricket Association for more information.”

Hottest games predictions

The challenge between Ben Camille and Times of Malta Sports Editor Valhmor Camilleri is heating up, as they continue trying to predict the results of the hottest games happening this weekend.

How did they do last week?

Valhmor Camilleri has increased the gap over Ben Camille in the third week of the challenge

In fact, he managed to guess two correct scores from the matches – Chelsea vs Tottenham 2-0 and Manchester United vs West Ham 1-0 – while also managing to predict that Milan vs Juventus would finish in a draw to gain 90 points.

On the other hand, Ben Camille managed to guess just one correct result – Milan vs Juventus 0-0 – while also having predicted that Chelsea would have the better of Tottenham to finish the weekend with 50 points.

Total Scores after week 3

In the overall standings, Valhmor Camilleri is leading the way with 230 points while Ben Camille is behind with 160 points.

We will keep you updated with a tally of their scores every week. A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

Inter vs Milan (Saturday, February 4 at 18.00)

The San Siro awaits one of the biggest Milan derbies in years as champions Inter host their local rivals hoping to maintain a solid lead at the top of Serie A.

Inter are four points ahead of Milan heading into Saturday evening’s clash, which could be a turning point in Simone Inzaghi’s quest to retain the Nerazzurri’s title in his first, so far hugely impressive, year as coach.

His team are unbeaten in the league since mid-October, a 15-match run which contains just four draws, including one against Milan in the first derby of the season back in November.

It is the start of a big fortnight for Inter, with the visit of Roma in the Italian Cup on Tuesday followed by a trip to second-placed Napoli next weekend before Liverpool come to Milan for the first leg of an intriguing Champions League last-16 tie.

For Milan, Saturday’s match represents a key moment in their bid for a first Scudetto in over a decade. A defeat would leave them seven points back having played a game more, with Inter’s abandoned match with Bologna from January to be rescheduled for later this month.

Valhmor’s prediction: Inter vs Milan 2-0.

Ben Camille’s prediction: Inter vs Milan 2-1.

Ħamrun Spartans vs Gżira United (Saturday at 16.00)

Ħamrun Spartans will be looking to boost their championship challenge when they face Gżira United on Saturday afternoon.

The Spartans come into the match on the back of three successive draws that hampered their hopes of bridging the gap of Premier League leaders Hibernians.

A win is a must for Mark Buttigieg’s team if they are to stay in the hunt to mount a successful title defence this evening.

The Spartans will be without three key players today as Claude Dielna, Emerson Marcelina and Karl Micallef are suspended while they saw their club captain Matthew Guillaumier join Italian Serie C side Siena.

Gżira, on the other hand, too have been struggling for results lately as they only have one win from their last five league matches and are desperate for points to secure a place in the Championship Pool.

Valhmor Camilleri’s prediction: Ħamrun Spartans vs Gżira United 1-0.

Ben Camille’s prediction: Ħamrun Spartans vs Gżira United 1-1.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (Sunday at 16.15)

Rejuvenation will be the reward for the winner of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on Sunday as La Liga’s two fallen giants seek a statement victory to hasten their return to the elite.

Both clubs have endured the kind of turbulence this season that neither have faced for more than a decade but each of them head to Camp Nou with fresh hope and a sense of optimism that a corner is being turned.

Sunday will mark exactly two months since Xavi Hernandez was appointed Barcelona coach, with the team lying ninth in La Liga, five points adrift of the top four.

The trajectory since has not always been upward, with failure to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages preceding defeat by Athletic Bilbao in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Atletico’s problem has been conceding goals rather than scoring them, the collapse of their usually dependable defence the central reason for the crumbling defence of their title. Already, they have conceded 26 goals, one more than they let in all last season.

Four defeats in a row in December not only ended any hopes they had of catching Real Madrid but raised doubts about Atletico’s ability to recover and even Diego Simeone’s position as coach.

Valhmor Camilleri’s prediction: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 2-1.

Ben Camille’s prediction: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 2-0.

Do you reckon you can beat Ben and Valhmor? Let us know your predictions for this weekend’s hottest matches in the comments below.

Lottoland is giving all new customers from Malta 4 chances to win the €130,000,000 EuroMillions Superdraw for €3 [Save €9]. Click here to claim the offer.

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