By Richard Lockwood
Thailand’s women cricketers have won another major competition as they beat China by seven wickets at Royals to complete a perfect record of five wins out of five to be deservedly crowned as the first winners of the ACC Women’s Premier. This is a major achievement as this was a new competition played by the six leading teams in ACC women’s cricket over a longer format and so Thailand have now won competitions in 40-over and 25-over cricket, as well as making a name for themselves on the world stage in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in Ireland. More than ever they deserve to be recognized as one of the major teams in the world of women’s cricket and they will now have another chance to play in an ICC qualifying tournament.
It was hoped that the last match of the ACC Women's Premier 2014 would provide a fitting conclusion to the competition as the two unbeaten sides met to decide the winners of the first Women's Premier. Thailand had surprised China in the final of the ACC Women's Championship last year but China were probably the underdogs this time. Thailand won the toss and elected to field first.
Both teams were at full strength with Thailand welcoming back Nattakan Chantam after taking her exams. Suleeporn Laomi kept her place after taking three wickets in the two matches in which she has bowled but China also had a formidable leg-spinner in Han Lili who had taken 11 wickets in her four matches.
Thailand's captain Sornnarin Tippoch had had a fine all-round tournament and she decided to bowl the first over as the Chinese were perceived to be weaker against spin. She beat the bat three times in the first over and China now had to face Chanida Sutthiruang who took 3 for 6 against them in last year's final. The openers survived the first two overs with Sun Mengyao facing the first 12 balls.
China hadn't scored runs as heavily as they had in last year's competition but their openers were still a formidable partnership with Zhang Mei, batter of the tournament in 2013, already with more than 100 runs to her name this time.
The experiment with spin was over as Nattaya Boochatham came on to bowl the fifth over. China were playing confidently but not piercing the field but there had been no repeat of the rush of wickets that ended their hopes last year.
Although early wickets have not been forthcoming Thailand had bowled very tidily allowing only 9 singles and one two in the first powerplay without bowling any wides.
18 runs were scored from the first ten overs and Nattakan Chantam was brought on as Thailand continued to search for their first wicket. Zhang Mei was content to take her time as Chanida finished her opening spell of 5-1-9-0 and was replaced by Ratanaporn Padunglerd who conceded the first extras of the innings in what has been a tidy start for Thailand.
Sornnarin was back for her second spell but China's opening partnership was continuing to mount even without any boundaries. Thailand finally took their first wicket with the score on 39 when Sun Mengyao was caught at slip for 22.
Sainammin Saenya was on to bowl her medium pace as Thailand's captain was trying all her bowling options as China were 42 for 1 after 18 overs at the end of the first hour.
China had moved to 50 for one after 20 overs with the match looking evenly poised at the halfway point the innings. Zhang Mei had reached 19 and had been joined by the powerful Yu Miao.
Sornnarin collected the second wicket as she had Yu Miao lbw with the last ball of her seventh over and Nattaya Boochatham came back to keep up the pressure on China.
Sornnarin struck again in her final over as Zhang Mei finally lost patience. Having hit over extra-cover successfully for two she tried the aggressive approach again and was caught at point for 27. Thailand's captain finished with figures of 2 for 16 in her 8 overs.
China were beginning to struggle as they lose their fourth wicket on 65 as Liu Xiaonan was caught behind off Nattaya Boochatham for 0. With two new batters at the crease it was a good time to give young leg-spinner Suleeporn Laomi a chance to bowl.
Two firm drives through the off-side required some athletic fielding so Suleeporn was taken out of the attack after a single over but she had played her part in this important match and Nattakan Chantam was back to bowl another tidy over. There had been no boundaries in the first 30 overs.
China were getting bogged down and the absence of fours meant the fifth-wicket pair were now looking for quick singles but this has only resulted in a run out as the next wicket fell on 79. Ratanaporn changed ends as Thailand were now preferring to use medium pace bowlers while they have the Chinese contained.
Nattakan Chantam now also changed ends and she claimed the sixth wicket as Zou Miao was caught at cover for 0 and China would now have to work hard to reach three figures as Wang Meng was caught at point from her second ball.
The first four of the innings finally came in the 35th over as China's captain was finally able to hit an on-drive hard enough to reach the rope but another firm shot was caught at short mid-on by Sornnarin to leave China on 95 for 8.
Chanida had bowled with great control today and took a well-deserved wicket in her last over as Zhou Haijie was bowled for 6 and although China's last pair were able to bring up the 100 they didn't get any further as the last wicket fell to a run out as they failed to bat out their 40 overs.
All had gone according to plan for Thailand as first they contained the impressive Chinese openers and then kept up the pressure so well that China collapsed from 57 for one to 100 all out. Sornnarin, Nattakan and Ratanaporn all took two wickets apiece and Chanida's spell of 8-2-12-1 may well prove as important as her three wickets last year.
All was not yet lost for China as low scores can be defended here as Thailand showed last year but the home side have looked a strong team in this competition and would be confident of chasing a target of 101.
Thailand started their reply with Nattakan Chantam promoted to open with Naruemol Chaiwai so it appeared the home side will look to be positive. China were also opening the bowling with a spinner Zhou Haijie but Nattakan soon hit her for four behind square on the off-side.
Nattakan scored 12 of the first 15 runs and she was ensuring the innings had some impetus which she conclusively proved as she rocked back and pulled Yu Miao for six onto the golf course: a statement of intent indeed as it was only the second six of the tournament. She then hit hard and high over mid-off for her second four.
Wu Juan, another off-spinner, bowled a maiden to Naruemol and it was now time for the leg-spinner Han Lili. She had taken wickets throughout the tournament and needed to add to her tally if China were to have any chance. Two full tosses, the second of which was clubbed for four, suggested she was nervous but she did take the first wicket as Nattakan was stumped for 27.
It had been an exciting start to Thailand's innings and Nattaya Boochatham came to the wicket at 33 for 1. She had already played outstanding innings against Bhutan and Hong Kong with her team in trouble so it would be appropriate if she could steer Thailand to victory today.
Thailand were making steady progress with Han Lili struggling with her control and Nattaya was calmly pushing the singles as we were now seeing the lull after the storm.
Naruemol was going for her shots but lacked Nattakan's power or Nattaya's timing but she brought up the fifty in the 16th over. China had been 57 for one earlier in the day so there was still work to be done but all looked set fair for the home side.
China were changing the bowling on a regular basis but were not looking likely to take the wickets they needed. Runs were coming slowly with 10 singles in six overs and leg-spinner Han Lili was back with 3 overs still to bowl.
Nattaya did try to open up against the leg-spinner but a fierce pull was well stopped and a cover drive was chased down. Naruemol was then dropped at mid-on before being bowled by Yu Miao. She made 27 from 76 balls and the wicket brought Pundarika Prathanmitr to the crease with 27 runs needed. In all China dropped four chances and missed two run-outs, Thailand took all the opportunities that came their way, with two exceptional catches.
Pundarika is a more naturally attacking player which allowed Nattaya to continue pushing the ball around to leave the big shots to her partner just as she had done in their match-winning partnership against Hong Kong.
China claimed their third wicket as Pundarika is bowled by Yu Miao for 7 but captain fantastic Sornnarin Tippoch then came to the crease and Thailand's two most experienced players would be looking to see their side home.
Thailand were now moving quickly towards victory as Nattaya played a lovely straight drive for two an off drive for three while Sornnorin produced a sweep shot for two. Three runs were needed with seven overs left.
Nattaya was content to play out an over from Wu Juan but a wide brought Thailand one closer to victory.
It was left to captain Sornnarin Tippoch to score the winning runs as she hit over backward point for two. Thailand had won by seven wickets to win the first edition of the ACC Women's Premier. They had been surprise winners of the 25-over competition a year ago but this time they had proved themselves to be the best team in the tournament by a considerable margin. Nattaya was unbeaten on 23 in her third superb display of disciplined batting of the week. She is a Premier batswoman and Thailand’s women are a Premier team.
ACC Women’s Premier 2014
Day 7: Thailand v China at RCGC
THAILAND WON BY SEVEN WICKETS
Thailand won the toss and elected to field
China: 100 all out off 38.5 overs
Thailand: 101 for 3 off 34.4 overs
Player of the Match: Nattakan Chantham (Thailand)
Bowler of the Tournament: Sornnarin Tippoch (Thailand)
Batter of the Tournament: Yip Sze Wan (Hong Kong)
Player of the Tournament: Chanida Sutthiruang (Thailand)
Filed February 18th, 2014