Our preparation for the England game has been extensive. We have had a net session at Manuka Oval, and a center-wicket hit out at the Cricket ACT High Performance center at Phillip Oval.
Both involve long knocks for the top six batters. Each pair is given an eight over slot with a run target. They bat to the spinners, or to throw-downs from coach Harshal. The quicks bowl in the nets. Again, the spirits are high. The batters are encouraged to take on the bowling and be positive.
Geoff Lemon from The Final Word podcast pops in to the team hotel for a feature on Thailand with Sornnarin Tippoch, Natthakan Chantham, Naruemol Chaiwai, Harshal Pathak, and Shan Kader.
It is a wide-ranging interview, the fruits of which are now available online here.
Soon after, Natthakan Chantham gives a press conference at training. She says Thailand has watched videos and analyzed England’s recent performances. Plans have been made, especially in relation to where to bowl to each batter.
Natthakhan also talks about the prospect of playing against Danni Wyatt. “I like the aggression she brings to the game, the confidence with which she hits the ball…it will be a fun little encounter.”
“What has surprised you most about this World Cup?”
“Just the massive scale of this tournament, also how its packaged and marketed, I’ve never experienced anything like it,” replies Natthakan without hesitation.
Natthakan’s response exemplifies the importance of exposure. Teams like Thailand can only begin to understand what cricket means to so many millions of when they are given the opportunity to play regularly outside Thailand and in places like Australia.
The volume of media coverage of Thailand’s World Cup campaign starts to sink in. ESPN Cricinfo, BBC Sport, The Australian, The Canberra Times, Sky Sports, and The Herald Sun, among others, feature detailed pieces.
I hope this coverage brings tangible benefits to the team and the Association in the longer run.
Speaking of cricket lovers, a cabal of rusted-on diehards who help support the game in Thailand make an appearance. They represent Southerners Cricket Club. In Bangkok, they coach and provide playing opportunities for young, Thai players, and more recently, have even supported a couple to find employment in Bangkok so that they can focus on cricket. Vaughan Mclear and a group of five have flown from Bangkok and around Australia to support the team. True to form, we find a watering hole the evening before the game for a cheeky beer or two.
We start emphatically. At 2/7 in the second over, there are audible gasps in the English-heavy press box followed by pin drop silence.
The silence and pressure slow dissipate. The bowlers assigned to bowl in the power play give Heather Knight and Nat Sciver too many loose balls to put away. They bowl on both sides of the wicket, making runs impossible to contain.
And Knight and Sciver put the loose balls away every time. Without fail. This is the reality of cricket at the highest level. Of course, in between these bad balls, which materialise throughout the innings, the experienced English pair manipulates the field and work the good balls around for ones and twos with ease.
It is a flaw that plays perfectly into England’s ostensible percentage cricket strategy. They appear to focus on rotating the strike and waiting for the bad ball, rather than intentionally trying to blast Thailand out of the park.
Thailand’s best bowler on the day, Suleeporn Laomi comes on to Knight and Sciver in full flow. Despite bowling well, she is unable to dislodge the two set batters.
177 is a tall order, but Natthakan Chantam gets Thailand off to a flyer. As I have said before, her game square of the wicket on the off-side is second to none. She carves both Shrubsole and Brunt for boundaries between cover and point in the first three overs.
England respond quickly and effectively. The left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone comes on inside the power play and angles the ball into Natthakan at a fair pace. Sciver also cramps Natthakan and Nannapat for room in a miserly two over spell. The runs dry up, and after Natthakan falls to Ecclestone in the 13th over, Thailand collapses from 1/48 to 5/56 in the space of three overs.
Losing wickets in clumps is an ongoing problem.
More pertinently, the gulf in match awareness and the ability to adapt to situations quickly is apparent. We are shown up by a side who observe the batters’ strengths, adjust their lines, lengths, and fields, and change the complexion of the game in a matter of minutes. This is the level we some how need to get to with our tactical awareness and execution of skills.
For the second game in a row, we score 78, bat out the twenty overs and lose heavily.
Naruemol Chaiwai finishes on 19* off 23. I feel happy for her, even though I am bitterly disappointed by the result. Chaiwai is one of Thailand’s most hard working and mentally tough cricketers. She is one of those players you would really like to see succeed.
The mood after the loss is predictably sombre. We know we could have done better. We know that at this level, each ball counts, even though we often do not make each ball count.
Hopefully we will avoid making the same mistakes again.