EC weekly roundup: Thailand’s debut, Nepal central contracts, and more

Naruemol Chaiwai

Thailand’s women headline this EC weekly review, as they stepped onto the storied turf of the WACA ground to make their T20 World Cup debut. Playing the 2016 champions West Indies, they went down fighting as they displayed all of the talent and energy that has propelled them from obscurity into the top 10 of women’s cricket.

A bold decision to bat first from skipper Sornarin Tippoch saw them post 78/9 from their 20 overs, anchored by Nannapat Koncharoenkai’s 33, as the Thais batted with application and rotated the strike effectively. Stafanie Taylor was a thorn in their side, plucking 3 wickets with her offspinners, and the Thai batters did struggle to land the heftier blows needed to reach the rope.

Fielding is their strength though, and a spectacular runout from Naruemol Chaiwai showcased well-honed skills and put the Windies in a spot of bother at 3/27. With Shemaine Campbelle given LBW off Chanida Sutthiruang two balls later and then overturned, there was briefly hope of a boilover, but Stafanie Taylor, rated as one of the top allrounders in world cricket, again stamped her authority on the match as she guided her side through some disciplined Thai bowling with a patient knock of 26* (27).

Beaten, but not overwhelmed, the Thais will look to bounce back against England and England in Canberra on the 26th and 28th, before finishing their group-stage campaign against Pakistan on the 3rd of March.

Thailand batted with good application, but couldn’t post a high enough total to stay in the game. Photo: ICC.

In more positive news for Thailand, a quadrangular series in the northern city of Chiang Mai was confirmed this week, as they host Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands in a 50-over series this April. Played as a double round-robin, the 6 matches for each team will be vital practice as they look to tune up before their Women’s World Cup Qualifying campaign in Sri Lanka in June.

The Irish men, meanwhile, have been in South Africa for a Wolves tour against Namibia. Both countries are using the series to field development sides, with fringe national players and new recruits getting some match practice – for Ireland Wolves, it is South African-born Curtis Campher, while Namibia are taking a look at left-arm quick Ruben Trumpelmann. In the T20 matches so far, Ireland have taken a 2-1 lead, with Gareth Delaney and Stephen Doheny, as well as Campher providing some highlights with the bat, while Namibia’s ever-reliable captain Gerhard Erasmus again showed his class. With the ball, Trumpelmann impressed for Namibia, while Tyrone Kane and Craig Young pressed their cases for a recall.

Back home in Windhoek, and Namibia held the player draft for its domestic T20 franchise league. Played over 2 weekends in March, the Richelieu Franchise T20 tournament will see 4 sides each built around 4 national-contracted players, 4 U19s picks and the top-performing players from the local club tournament. Full team lists are viewable here.

Another African team has also been in action this week, with Uganda visiting Qatar for two 50-over games and a 3-match T20I series. Winning one in each of the formats, Uganda struggled slightly on the slower Doha pitch. Young gun Frank Akankwasa showed promise as he smashed 66 (33) in a losing cause in the first T20I, while veteran offspinner Frank Nsubuga reached the impressive milestone of playing international cricket across 4 decades. Miserly as ever, he looks set to remain a cornerstone of their bowling attack for years to come. It was part-time seamer Deus Muhumuza who grabbed the limelight though, as he led Uganda to victory with 5 scalps in the third match, becoming the first Ugandan to reach that mark in T20Is. For the hosts, their depth in batting showed, with Kamran Khan and Zaheer Ibrahim leading the way as they hit 134 and 111 respectively (including 50s in the first and second matches), while seamer Awais Malik was the pick of the bowlers with 5 wickets at an economy rate of just 6 per over. Uganda then flew on to India where they will face a series of club sides in 50-over fixtures. 

Still in the Gulf, and Asia Cup T20 qualification gets underway in Oman from the 23rd, with the ACC Western Region held at Al Amerat. The 8 competing teams are split into two groups of 4 – Bahrain, Maldives, Oman and Qatar make up group A, while group B has the spiciest match-up with bitter political rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia also joined by UAE and Kuwait. With only 2 of the 8 teams progressing to the final round of qualifying, the semi-finals will be decisive, with the top 2 sides from each group battling it out for a ticket to Malaysia in August.

Fresh off their successful CWCL2 home series, Nepal has announced central contracts for both male and female players. 24 men will be contracted across 4 tiers (A+, A, B and C), while 18 women will be paid in 3 tiers (A, B, C).  

There was also good news for the cricket-hungry fans in Nepal, with a new 2-day league announced. Bringing together 6 top academies from Kathmandu Valley, it will be sponsored by Orchid International College and should provide valuable longer-form experience to up-and-coming Nepali players. Spectators in the T20 format are also in for a treat, as EPL side Pokhara Rhinos announced another big-name signing, with explosive Scottish opener George Munsey joining Chris Gayle at the top of the order in what is set to be one of the most exciting combinations in franchise cricket.

Moving to Nepal’s CWCL2 rivals USA, and the bad news continues for them after a miserable showing on the field – allrounder Nisarg Patel has been banned from bowling due to a suspicious action. Reports are that he may continue to be selected as a batsman, but with their next assignment being a CWCL2 tri-series in spin-friendly Florida, his left-arm orthodox will be missed.

Off the field, and the USA have also announced the recruitment of Richard Done, former ICC High Performance Manager, in the role of USA Cricket Operations Manager. A veteran administrator with a great depth of emerging cricket knowledge, his appointment is a positive step for a board beset with off-field challenges and questions as to their process (highlighted by this week’s farcical 35-minute AGM).

Finally, the emerging cricket week concluded back in Australia, as Fairbreak Global (an organisation dedicated to campaigning for gender equality in sport) assembled a team from 8 different nations (including 5 Associates) to compete in an exhibition T20 match against the Bradman XI, led by Australian champion Alex Blackwell. The Fairbreak XI was briefly thrown into disarray as young Botswanan batter Shameela Mosweu’s visa was denied over bureaucratic fears she would overstay, but a public outcry and even political pressure saw the decision reversed just in time for her to make a last-minute dash from London (where she is studying) to Sydney and then onto Bowral for the match at the Bradman Oval. On the field, the Bradman XI were too strong, as Hannah Darlington’s half-century led them to 151/3 from their 20 overs. In reply, the Fairbreak XI were restricted by some tidy bowling and sharp fielding to 128/2. After her dramatic arrival, Mosweu started solidly, but couldn’t go on with her innings as she chopped on to a half-tracker from legspinner Anika Leroyd for 12. Dutch opener Sterre Kalis starred with the bat, top-scoring for the match with 58*.

To hear the EC team discuss these and other stories in more depth, join us for the Emerging Cricket Podcast.


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