The sixth day of the ICC Women’s Asia Qualifier 2019 being held in Bangkok saw hosts Thailand move one step closer to claiming the title as they defeated Malaysia by 87 runs at TCG.
That gave Thailand their fifth successive victory, which meant they moved to 10 points, ahead of both UAE and Nepal – who narrowly beat China by five runs – who have eight points each. Thailand have a considerable advantage on net run-rate but there is still plenty to play for on the final day when Nepal face Kuwait and Thailand take on UAE on Wednesday.
Thailand faced Malaysia knowing they needed to make it five wins out of five and also beat their opponents by a considerable margin to maintain or improve their net run-rate. The hosts also wanted to continue to impose their authority on a competition which brings places at the next two ICC global qualifying events for the tournament winners.
With qualification for T20 and 50-over World Cups the ultimate goal for Thailand, every match comes with its own pressure, but the Thai girls have won their last 12 T20Is, which makes them one of the most successful women's teams in world cricket right now.
Malaysia won the toss and elected to field first as captain Winifred Duraisingam felt the pitch would help her bowlers early in the day. Thailand's Sornnarin Tippoch confidently stated she was looking for a total of 120 from her side, such were the standards her team were aiming to reach.
T20 cricket is unpredictable and after carefully playing out five dot balls, Nattakan Chantam hit a shorter ball from Duraisingam straight to cover point, which left Thailand 0/1. Nattaya Boochatham joined Naruemol Chaiwai at the crease and 20 dot balls were bowled in the first four overs. A pair of boundaries in the next two overs meant Thailand were 20/1 at the end of the Powerplay but the match was more evenly balanced than anticipated.
Chaiwai was beginning to bat more freely but her partner Boochatham was run out for seven from 17 balls as Chaiwai tried to rotate the strike. The score was 25/2 as Chanida Sutthiruang strode out to the crease and she nervelessly hit her first ball for four through cover. Thailand were 43/2 after 10 overs with Naruemol on 25 and Sutthiruang on 9.
Thailand's fifty came up in the 11th over and the innings was transformed as four boundaries were produced in the next three overs, three of which were owed to Chaiwai, who was now approaching her second fifty of the tournament. The score was moving at a very healthy rate as Thailand were 70/2 after 13 overs with 41 coming from the last five overs. With five overs left the score was 81/2, with a final total of 120 still a realistic target.
Chaiwai has been the most consistent batter in the tournament and she completed her second fifty from 50 balls with five fours. The third-wicket partnership ended on 69 in less than 11 overs as Chanida was caught at long on for 28 from 27 balls including three fours.
The hundred came up at the start of the 19th over and Chaiwai was showing great stamina to still be able to run a number of twos. Duraisingam took the wicket of Tippoch from the last ball of her fourth over as Thailand lost their fourth wicket. Malaysia's seam bowlers had performed well all morning and Intan deserved the wicket she got from the last ball of the innings as Onnicha Kampchomphu was also bowled.
Thailand finished on 114/5 with Chaiwai 64* from 66 balls. Malaysia had tried hard in the field and had put real pressure on Thailand during the first six overs of the innings but Chaiwai made sure her side scored 94 from the next 14 overs. Duraisingam and Intan both took two wickets with their medium pace.
It was Thailand's spin bowlers who did the damage early in the Malaysia reply as Nattaya bowled Mas Elysa and had Duraisingam caught and bowled. Tippoch was named player of the match for her figures of 4/8 against Kuwait and she continued where she left off with two wickets in her first three balls.
Thailand's captain also claimed Malaysia's fifth wicket and worse was to follow as leg-spinner Suleeporn Laomi struck with her first ball as a sweep shot was well caught by Chantam. She took a second wicket later in the over as Malaysia slumped to 17-7.
Laomi took her third wicket as Malaysia went eight down, while Onnicha took the ninth, but it was left to Tippoch to take the final wicket as Malaysia were bowled out for 27 in 16 overs.
The captain had figures of 4/4 from her four overs while Laomi finished with 3/4. Thailand had won their fifth match of the tournament by an imposing 87 runs as they moved onto 10 points in the table and built an almost impregnable advantage in net run-rate.
The afternoon match at TCG saw Nepal face China with both teams starting the day on six points in the table. China had won three matches out of five while Nepal had won three out of four, so still had a game in hand, and the winner would move up to eight points level with UAE and two points behind leaders Thailand.
China were happy to win the toss and bowl first as their bowling attack has been one of the most effective in the tournament thus far. Nepal's openers made a steady start as they shared a partnership of 32 in the first nine overs before both Kajal Shreshta and Sita Rana Magar fell to the impressive Chinese spinners.
Indu Barma and Bindu Rawal continued to make slow progress as the fifty came up with only two wickets down but the run-rate never accelerated beyond four runs an over.
Nepal finished on 77/9 in their 20 overs as opening bowler Wang Meng came back to take 2/13 and leg-spinner Han Lili claimed 2/14. China overcame Hong Kong's total of 86 in an earlier match with the last pair at the wicket, so we were in for an interesting chase.
Nepal's two left-arm spinners had shared eight wickets in the last match and Sita Rana took the first two wickets as China were rocked back at 10/2 in the fifth over, including the wicket of skipper Huang Zhuo, who was well caught at mid-on by Rubina Chhetry.
The third wicket fell on 20 as Song Fengfeng was run out but Zhou Caiyun and Zheng Mei made a good job of rebuilding the innings and resisting the other Nepal spinners, particularly Nary Thapa who had taken 6/8 in her last match.
The run-rate never reached the required rate as Caiyun found rotating the strike difficult. Her long vigil ended on 18 from 61 balls but she had done her best to bring China back into the game.
Han Lili immediately went for her shots but became Sita Rana's third victim when she was brought back to bowl the last over. Mei then hit the fourth ball of the 20th over for four and suddenly eight runs were needed from two balls for a Super Over. She managed a two and a one but was run out for 33 and China ended five runs short on 72/6.
It was a match China probably should have won but they finished their campaign with three wins out of six and will finish in fourth place overall, while Nepal now have eight points and should finish in second or third place depending on tomorrow's results. They will look to move to 10 points by beating Kuwait and will have to await the outcome of the match between Thailand and UAE.
The other match of the sixth day was played at AIT between Hong Kong and Kuwait, two teams without a win. It was a rather one-sided contest as Hong Kong bowled out their opponents for just 25 in only 10 overs. Eight Kuwait players were dismissed for ducks. Priyada Murali made 12 and Sabreen Zaki hit five, while Kary Chan took 3/2 and Mahreen Yousaf collected three wickets in an over without conceding a run.
Hong Kong needed 6.1 overs to reach their target as Yasmin Daswani was unbeaten on 13, while Murali took the only wicket. Hong Kong finally gained their first win but Kuwait definitely had a day to forget.
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