The Thai women this week wrapped up their T20 World Cup campaign with a frustrating washout, as Sydney rain denied them their best chance at an upset. Skipper Sornnarin Tippoch won the toss and elected to bat first, returning to the aggressive strategy employed in their first match against the West Indies.
Openers Natthakan Chatham (56) and Nattaya Bochatham (44) then backed up Tippoch’s decision with a bright start as they put on 93 for the first wicket, in a partnership lit up with Thailand’s signature offside drives. The lower, slower Showground pitch looked immediately suited to the Thai playing style, as they didn’t have to contend with the disconcerting bounce that undid them against South Africa, while some ill-disciplined bowling from Pakistan allowed them to get set. After a tidy start, Anam Amin’s left-arm orthodox kicked off Chantham’s innings in the fourth over, as she fed her a series of half-volleys that were spanked away through the mid-off and cover region for 4 boundaries.
Most encouraging though, was Thailand’s ability to adapt their game and keep scoring runs. When Pakistan captain Javeria Khan attempted to reinforce the offside field, Chantham and Boochatham worked it to leg; when the bowling was tidy, they pushed hard for singles to keep the score ticking.
It was a hugely improved performance over their previous batting efforts, and when the openers finally fell looking to up the run rate, their colleagues kept up the pace, with Chanida Suttiruang (promoted up the order) and Nannapat Koncharoenkai both hitting quickfire 20s laced with sweep shots to the rope.
Ending on 150/3, Thailand easily surpassed their previous best T20I score of 133/8 against the Netherlands last year and looked to be in the box seat to spring an upset – especially as Pakistan’s previous-highest successful T20I run chase was 139, and their highest-ever second innings total was 144. Still, the experience gained by Thailand both in this match and throughout the tournament will doubtless hold them in good stead as they shift focus to qualifying for the 50-over World Cup next year.
In other Women’s T20 World Cup news, the ICC announced that qualification for the next event in 2022 will be based on rankings, rather than final standings at this year’s edition. Hosts South Africa qualify automatically, with the next 7 places determined by team rankings as of 30 November 2021, and the remaining 2 places up for grabs at a future qualifying tournament. This is despite significant flaws in the ranking system, and the fact that lower-ranked teams like Thailand are unlikely to be afforded enough opportunities against higher-ranked sides to improve their ranking in order to qualify.
Back home in Bangkok, and Thailand’s men’s team had a disappointing campaign at the ACC Eastern region Asia Cup qualifiers, losing all their games by comprehensive margins, they didn’t once reach 100 with the bat. Nepal also left empty-handed, as systematic issues with their domestic cricket manifested in a lacklustre performance on the field – initial losses to Malaysia and Hong Kong meant they were eliminated going into the final day, where their clash with Singapore was rained off in a damp metaphor for their campaign. Singapore meanwhile roared to the top of the table as they were boosted by the late arrival of Tim David. The Perth-based allrounder brutalised Malaysia with 92* (32) as Singapore posted 239/3 in a 128-run demolition job, before David again fired against Hong Kong with a less frenetic 58 (46) to guide Singapore through to the next round with a game to spare.
Having both lost to Singapore, the final day saw Hong Kong and Malaysia facing off in a de facto knockout match for the second qualifying spot. After beating their neighbours 5-0 in the recent Interport series, Malaysia were brimful of confidence, but tidy spells from Aizaz Khan and Haroon Arshad kept them to a manageable score of 132/6, before Hong Kong opener Shahid Wasif reached his first T20I half-century. A steady contribution of 33* from Jamie Atkinson saw the Bauhinia home and safely into the final round of qualifying for the upcoming Asia Cup. It was a bittersweet moment for Hong Kong, though, as wicketkeeper Scott McKechnie announced his retirement to focus on a full-time position as director of cricket at the Singapore Cricket Club.
In another blow for Malaysian cricket, the ICC announced that the upcoming Challenge League A, set to be hosted in Kuala Lumpur, was postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Elsewhere in the Asia region, and Nepal’s Everest Premier League was also postponed due to the outbreak of the virus.
South of Nepal, and Greater Noida, India saw the start of Afghanistan’s 3-match T20I series against Ireland. Opting to bat in the first match, Ireland posted 172/6 off their 20 overs, with Rashid Khan’s 3/22 pegging them back after a flying start from openers Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien saw them to 63/0 off the powerplay. In response, a brisk partnership between Haztratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah at the top followed by Najibullah Zadran’s whirlwind 42* (21) saw Afghanistan ahead by 11 on the DLS calculation when rain ended play after 15 overs.
Finally, in some good news for Namibia, they this week announced a lucrative sponsorship with the Castle Lite, making the beer label Namibia’s title sponsor for home internationals. Organisers will doubtless have their fingers crossed that the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t force the cancellation of their upcoming ODI/T20I series against the Netherlands, currently scheduled to take place from 25th of March until 1st of April.