This year’s Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier promised to be one of the closest editions, and if day one action is anything to go by, it may well live up to the expectations. Bangladesh and Thailand claimed early bragging rights in two fierce Group B encounters going down to the final over, overcoming Pakistan and Zimbabwe respectively.
Thailand (247/6) defeated Zimbabwe (239/5) by eight runs
Thailand’s meticulous preparation in the lead-up to the Qualifier paid early dividends, beating the tournament hosts at the Harare Sports Club.
In spite of the early loss of Nattaya Boochatham for five, Thailand looked comfortable against the home attack, with Natthakan Chantham and Sornnarin Tippoch putting on 94 for the second wicket.
The pair were both removed by Loreen Tshuma (2/35) in the space of 14 balls, though Thailand regrouped through well-crafted knocks from Nannapat Khoncharoenkai (47) and skipper Chaiwai, who made 30 from 42 deliveries. Chanida Sutthiruang, who continues to impress with the bat, lifted Thailand to 247 by making 35* from 28 deliveries, hitting four boundaries.
Zimbabwe were circumspect in response, putting on 49 for the first wicket in 17 overs, though it appeared the hosts escaped Thailand’s grasp through two strong partnerships involving Josephine Nkomo. Finishing with 56 off 66 balls, Nkomo was only denied a further part in the match through a piece of canny glovework by ‘keeper Khoncharoenkai, pouching an edge off Suleeporn Laomi’s leg-spin.
Despite the threat of Mary-Anne Musonda at the other end, Thailand edged ahead in the latter stages through smart execution of Chaiwai’s bowling plans. Of the last 54 balls or the innings, and needing seven an over for victory, Musonda faced just 22 deliveries, making just 21 of her 69*. Zimbabwe fell eight runs short, with the work of Laomi (2/51) and Thipatcha Putthawong (0/29 off nine overs) preventing late Zimbabwe heroics.
Bangladesh (202/7) defeated Pakistan (201/7) by three wickets
Rumana Ahmed claimed Player of the Match with her 50* sealing victory at Old Hararians.
Entering at 92/3 and still needing 110 for for victory inside 18 overs, Rumana struck six boundaries in an expert chase in tricky conditions.
Earlier, momentum had shifted in Pakistan’s favour, after recovering from 49/5 to posting a score over 200, thanks largely to Nida Dar’s 87 from 111 balls. Aliya Riaz’s 61* from 82 balls at number seven included some much-needed late hitting, as the pair hit 16 boundaries between them – and four over the rope for six.
Knowing their target, Bangladesh set about their chase with measure, moving to 85/2 in 30 overs. Stumbling with the loss of a pair of wickets, Pakistan looked to have taken the upper hand, as the required run rate approached ten.
Rumana responded, striking two boundaries at the end of the 44th over, with Ritu Moni crucially joining with three of her own consecutively in the 45th. Moni was bowled to end the over bowled by Fatima Sana, and the game took another turn with wickets in consecutive balls from Pakistan young-gun Omaima Sohail.
The rate of asking now approached twelve, but Rumana remained cool. Hitting three boundaries off Sohail’s next over, the rate required came down to 8.50, with Salma Khatun joining in with a flurry of her own. The pair scored 12 runs off the penultimate over, and snuck home making the five needed off the final over to win with two balls to spare.
Thailand take on Pakistan tomorrow, with Zimbabwe the team to sit out in their five-team group. Group A action also begins tomorrow, with Ireland taking on the West Indies and the Netherlands taking on Sri Lanka.
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