December 2012 has been a busy month for cricket in Chiang Mai as the city’s three magnificent cricket grounds played host to the Asian Cricket Council Trophy Challenge where seven countries from across Asia competed to gain promotion into the Elite Division.
The qualifying stages saw Thailand drawn in Group A against Iran and Singapore and Iran, while Bahrain, Qatar, China and Myanmar played in Group B.
Thailand started well by beating Iran and although Singapore proved too strong for them, the home country safely qualified for the semi-finals along with Singapore, Bahrain and Qatar.
The winners of the two semi-finals would gain promotion to the higher division so they were two important matches played at Traidhos Oval. Singapore defeated Qatar by 39 runs in the first semi-final after showing great depth in their batting by recovering from 95 for five.
Thailand played Bahrain in the second semi-final but their hopes of promotion were dashed as Bahrain reached 250 for nine in 50 overs despite the best efforts of the Thai spinners as 16-year-old Kushal Shah took four wickets.
Robert Raina made 72 as he went for his shots after the rest of the batting had been dismissed in single figures and the home side were bowled out for 124 as Bahrain won by 126 runs.
Singapore showed they were the best side in the competition as they beat Bahrain by 24 runs in the final at Traidhos Oval and Qatar finished in third place by beating Thailand by eight wickets at Royal Chiang Mai.
Thailand finished fourth in the ACC Trophy Challenge for the third time in succession which can be seen as an acceptable performance. Thailand’s spinners were impressive with a trio of slow left-arm bowlers, Kushal Shah, Vichanath Singh and Noppon Senamontree, being backed up by captain Ryan Raina bowling his off-spin.
But Thailand lacked a pair of penetrative opening bowlers and their batting misfired in the three matches against better opposition. Singapore, Bahrain and Qatar all remain much stronger sides so the home country had to be satisfied with their victory over Iran.
Chiang Mai cricket supporters will be able to follow the progress of some of the young players involved in the squad as they all play in the Chiang Mai Senior League.
Kittanu Saekue and Nikom Mayer both made their senior debuts for Thailand in the tournament while Chaiphet Koramet and Bunchuai Sombatraksa were reserves. Thanathit Jeerapanthawong completes the Chiang Mai connection: he made his senior debut when he was 17 and is still fully involved as coach and player at the age of 21.
The beautiful new ground outside of the city on the Mae Jo Road at Royal Chiang Mai Golf and Cricket Resort hosted international cricket for the first time staging five matches and the new ground was warmly applauded by all who played or watched.