Nishadh Rego and Rod Lyall
Nish Rego and Rod Lyall got together after the recent women’s series between Thailand and the Netherlands in Chiang Mai, to compare notes and assess what the matches revealed about the current state of the two teams.
It’s not often that emerging women’s teams host each other for multi-format bilateral series over multiple weeks. These tours are expensive and logistically complex to host and to travel long distances for. Non-contracted players often need to prioritise leave and time away from family for more important ICC qualifying tournaments. In this sense, the Thailand Women’s International Bilateral Series, featuring four ODIs and four T20Is between Thailand and the Netherlands, was a rare feat.
The newfound attachment of ODI Status to women’s fifty-over matches featuring Thailand, Netherlands, USA, Papua New Guinea, and Scotland, lends context to fixtures such as these, and urgency in organising them. The circuitous irony is that ‘ODI Status’ is meaningless without the ability to obtain fixtures – and therefore the ranking points needed to ease World Cup qualification pathways – against other ODI sides. So here we are, acknowledging the win that happened before the first ball was bowled.
I couldn’t agree more. Netherlands women lost their ODI status in 2011 and their three-match series against Ireland in August marked their return, but the opportunity to play an extended series across two formats in unfamiliar conditions will have made a huge contribution to their development. Thailand, of course, have been a remarkable success story, and their emergence has in many ways been comparable with that of Afghanistan among the men (if given a lot less attention by the ICC).
They were clearly the stronger team here, but there were some notable individual performances by the Dutch women, and they will take heart from having beaten the Thais for the first time in the second ODI. And it’s encouraging that the KNCB have this week announced a three-year sponsorship deal for their women’s team with SISAR, the Amsterdam-based technology firm.
The Netherlands was already at a disadvantage in unfamiliar, humid conditions. Playing eight matches in thirteen days also put a premium on underlying fitness levels and the ability to recover quickly. Thailand has improved significantly in these departments, a result of a professionalisation drive over the years, which includes hiring fitness and recovery coaches, and contracting players, thus giving them the time and space to work on their physical conditioning.
These factors affected the quality of fielding, urgency in the running between wickets, and the number of extras conceded across the series. The Netherlands’ ratio of extras conceded to overs bowled (0.71) more than doubled that of Thailand’s (0.30), the disparity much smaller across the shorter bowling spells of the T20I series. Even so, the Dutch were impressive in patches, threatening to dominate run chases on more than one occasion, before being inevitably pared back by a relentlessly accurate Thai spin attack. Their lone victory in the T20I series followed an almost identical script to the second ODI. requiring a big knock from Stere Kalis and effective middle-order contributions from Zwilling, Lynch, and Thomson to stave off the Thais. Winning that game no doubt did wonders for the team’s collective self-belief; a victory in and of itself as they seek, in the words of Coach Shane Deitz, “to change the mindset from participating to winning.”
The control and nagging accuracy of Thailand’s posse of spinners, each of them offering something a little different, was a crucial difference between the sides, effectively neutralising the Dutch top order’s greater strength and hitting power, and Naruemol Chaiwai managed her attack with great skill. She also knew when to set attacking fields, and the Thai fielding generally was a cut above that of the Netherlands. With the bat, Natthakan Chantham was a consistent thorn in the Dutch bowlers’ side, and she was backed up by significant knocks on occasion by Chaiwai herself, Rosenan Kanoh and Nannapat Koncharoenkai in the ODIs and by Somnarin Tippoch and Chanida Sutthiruang in the T20s.
One other significant gap between the sides was in the running between the wickets, where the Thais showed greater urgency and better judgement: the run-out count was ten to one in favour of Thailand, which reflects equally on their fielding and the Dutch running. Nowhere did the difference in experience and professionalism show more clearly than in this aspect of the game.
Despite these differences, there was more than enough talent on display for the Dutch to be excited about the future. Babette De Leede manipulated the crease with ease throughout the ODI series, cutting and sweeping her way to an average of 39.75, and backing it up with a tidy effort behind the stumps. Iris Zwilling’s outswingers were bowled with increasing pace, control, and penetration as the series wore on, her five-wicket haul the only one in the entire series. Leg-spinner Caroline De Lange, too, bowled with an exceeding amount of top-spin, dip, and control, holding her own against Natthakan Chantham and the rest of Thailand’s top order in each powerplay.
At 23, 21, and 24 respectively, these three players have many years of cricket ahead of them, and with Kalis and Siegers, likely constitute the foundation upon which Dutch women’s cricket can blossom. For Thailand too, it is time to look to the future, with Sornnarin Tippoch and Nattaya Boochatham nearing the end of their illustrious careers. It was particularly encouraging to see 17-year old Nanthita Boonsukham take four wickets in her only appearance of the series, 16-year old Banthida Leephatthana score 26 off 48 balls in the number three position, and help guide Thailand home in the final ODI, and 18-year old Phannita Maya bowl with pace, swing and relative consistency across both formats. This series provided vital exposure for each of these players, who must develop quickly in the absence of ongoing domestic competition, if they are to compete with the likes of Ireland and Bangladesh.
The same applies to the Dutch, who have the additional disadvantage of being part-timers who have to balance their cricket with study or work. But the Siegers sisters, De Leede, Kalis and Zwilling form the basis of a good side, and with Frédérique Overdijk and Hannah Landheer emerging as useful seamers (and Overdijk’s potential as a middle-order batter as well), and a string of younger players like Robine van Oosterom, who had limited opportunities here, Merel Dekeling, Phebe Molkenboer and Renee Smits coming along behind, the future of Shane Deitz’s squad is very promising indeed. Their next big challenge is the European T20 Cup qualifier in Spain at the end of August, with matches against Germany, Jersey, Scotland, Thailand and Ireland planned as preparation. Thailand are further along their path than the Dutch, but both did enough in this series to justify the ICC’s decision to expand the second group of women’s international teams.
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