Chanida Sutthiruang runs in from wide of the crease. It’s a ripper of an inswinger. A helpless Shemaine Campbelle is late on it. She’s struck in front of middle and leg.
There’s an appeal. The finger goes up. Neutral fans, off-duty commentators and Thai supporters all let out a primal scream in various corners of the world.
There were even cheers in the WACA media box.
The West Indies have been reduced to 27/4 chasing 79 to win against World Cup debutants Thailand.
Except they’re not four down.
Campbelle successfully reviews the decision. Chanida’s inswinger wasn’t just too good for her; it was too good to hit the stumps…
We’re back to 27/3 and the collapse never happens.
A fairy tale didn’t exactly materialise, but viewers were, nonetheless, treated to one of the most spirited World Cup team debuts in recent memory.
We analyze some of the promising aspects of Thailand’s performances along with areas they need to work on before they square off against England on Wednesday.
Keep Calm and Bat First
Thailand’s decision to bat first upon winning the toss was surprising to some, who were expecting an Associate nation to bowl first in order to give their bowlers more game time. However, for those who have followed them throughout their qualifying campaign, it was par for the course.
Thailand’s strategy throughout the regional and the global qualifiers was to bat first and back their strong bowling line-up to defend whatever they posted. The only exception to that was a rain-reduced 8-over game against China, which they won off the penultimate ball.
A Change at the Top
When Nattaya Boochatham walked out in place of Naruemol Chaiwai to partner Nattakan Chantam at the top of the order, much like she did in Thailand’s warm-up fixture against New Zealand, it stirred debate. It took one of Thailand’s top two batters out of her favourite position as Chaiwai laboured to a momentum-sapping 13 off 25, while Chantam was dismissed cheaply for 2.
One the other hand, this might be a necessary evil that is persisted with for a few more games as Thailand aim to deleverage a top-heavy batting order that has been historically over-reliant on Chaiwai and Chantam.
Pace? Easy. Bounce? Tough.
A lot of Thailand’s pre-tournament preparations centred on getting used to quicker bowlers. As highlighted by Nishad Rego in his tournament preview, they played practice games against select XIs from the ACT Meteors, NSW Breakers, and Queensland Fire.
The benefits of their meticulous preparations were on display as Thailand rarely ever looked rushed against Chinelle Henry and Shamilia Connell.
What troubled them more was a bouncy WACA surface that Thailand had only practised on once—that too the day before the game. Chantam, to her credit, was quick to realise this, stepping out of her crease to nail two impressive boundaries through the covers off Connell. However, when Connell shortened her length, Chantam stepped out of her crease once more and was undone by the extra bounce and seam, only managing to nick through to Campbelle.
Suffocated by Spin. Starved of Boundaries
When an attempted yorker slipped out of Chinelle Henry’s hands in the 5th over, Nannapat Koncharoenkai swatted it away to deep square leg boundary. Thailand’s run rate was creeping up to 5 and the West Indies was growing increasingly frustrated.
It what turned out to be an omen for the rest of the innings, Koncharoenkai was unable to capitalise on the resulting free hit, ballooning it just over mid on. Incidentally, this was the first aerial shot that Thailand had attempted through their innings.
Thailand attempted a total of 9 aerial shots throughout the course of their innings, scoring 8 runs and losing 4 wickets in the process; a statistic propped up by Suleeporn Laomi’s inventive paddle to fine in the last over of the innings. It broke a 92-ball boundary drought stretching all the way back to Henry’s full toss in the 5th over.
To add to their woes, the World Cup debutants faced 29 dot balls in the final 10 overs of their innings, struggling against the spin-bowling quartet of Fletcher, Mohammed, Matthews, and Taylor.
West Indies’ Innings
We haven’t RUN OUT of compliments just yet
At the toss, Sornnarin Tippoch was asked: “Who are some of the [Thai] players to look out for?”
Her response was “You can look out for our fielding, batting, and bowling.”
It was the first of those three disciplines that brought Thailand their maiden wicket in this World Cup. Although Chaiwai was credited with running out opener Lee-Ann Kirby, Ratanaporn Padunglerd deserves credit for letting the ball hit the stumps instead of collecting it.
Deandra Dottin was the next victim of Thailand’s polished ground fielding when Stafanie Taylor called her through for a quick single only for Laomi to laser a throw in from mid-wicket. At the keeper’s end, Koncharoenkai whipped the bails off in a flash, with the composure of someone who had practised this thousands of times in fielding drills.
West Indies were reduced to 27/3 as their cheeks started to flush red.
Chanida Sutthiruang or Megan Schutt?
Swing, swing, and more swing. Although ending up wicketless, Chanida was making the ball (and the Twitterverse) talk. With Dottin and Matthews back in the shed, who knows what would have happened if Shemaine Campbelle decided against reviewing her LBW decision?
It also led many to question why Tippoch did not throw the ball to her spearhead much earlier.
Thailand wanted to take the pace off against Hayley Matthews. It worked to a certain degree when she was undone by Soraya Lateh’s arm ball.
In any case, as the tournament plays out, it will be interesting to see what happens if Sutthiruang gets a shot at opposition openers with an unblemished new ball.
The Deciding Factor
Which team do you think faced more dots today?
That was a trick question. Both teams faced 64 dot balls throughout their innings. To Thailand’s credit, they maintained a higher dot ball percentage (64% compared to 53%), which may well have contributed to their two run outs.
However, the West Indies has always favoured boundary-hitting over strike—rotation and today was no exception. In the end, this was arguably the single biggest difference between them and their Southeast Asian counterparts.
Thailand will not be able to make wholesale improvements overnight in every area outlined above. However, if they can hit a handful of additional boundaries, the fine margins that often decide T20 games could confine one of their future opponents to a humbling defeat.