Thailand made an impressive start to the women’s cricket tournament in the Asian Games being held in Incheon, South Korea, by defeating Malaysia by nine wickets. The Thai girls bowled well and fielded magnificently to restrict Malaysia to a total of just 49 for 8 in 20 overs and the top three in the batting order saw their side home with only one wicket down.
Thailand are Asian Cricket Council champions over in both 25 and 40-over competition and had also impressed in front of a world audience in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers in Ireland last year, so the team was looking to build on these performances and had prepared well by spending valuable time in the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Academy in India in recent weeks.
Thailand are drawn in a group with Malaysia and Nepal with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals. Thailand had beaten Malaysia in the last two matches played between the two teams so were looking to start this competition with another victory over their rivals.
Malaysia won the toss and elected to bat first and their openers Emylia Eliani and Christina Baret made a steady start by scoring 16 runs from the first five overs. Thailand needed to be careful not to underestimate their opposition as Malaysia had recently won the inaugural Saudari Cup against Singapore. Nattaya Boochatham was captaining Thailand with Sornnarin Tippoch not fully fit.
Nattakan Chantam, still only 18 years old, is making quite a name for herself in international cricket with a string of match-winning performances, and the match changed in character as soon as she took the ball. She claimed two wickets in two balls in her first over and she was also involved in a run out as Malaysia lost their third wicket with the score on 25. Wongpaka Liengprasert kept up the pressure with a maiden over and Malaysia had only reached 28 at the halfway point of their innings.
Thailand continued to have the upper hand over Malaysia as Nattaya Boochatham brought herself on to bowl two tidy overs and introduced young leg-spinner Sureeporn Laomi who soon had opener Emilya Eliani stumped for 13 from 35 balls. Wongpaka Liengprasert was also very steady with the ball and took a well-deserved wicket in her last over to finish with figures of 4-2-7-1.
All was going to plan for Thailand as Nattakan Chantam took her third wicket and the fielding was looking very sharp as Wongpaka Liengprasert achieved another run out with a direct hit. The hard work put in at the Cricket Academy in Andhra Pradesh looked to be paying off with a good performance in the field.
Thailand wwere well satisfied with restricting Malaysia to a total of 49 for 8 in 20 overs. Only opener Emylia Eliani reached double figures as Malaysia managed only two boundaries and couldn't often pierce the field even to run singles. Nattakan Chantam finished with the outstanding figures of 4-0-6-4 with no fewer than 20 dot balls. Thailand were well on the way to their first victory of the competition.
A target of just 50 in 20 overs shouldn't present too many problems but Thailand's openers made a slow start by scoring only eight runs from the first three overs, but Nattakan Chantam always goes for her shots and she soon hit boundaries in consecutive overs to put her side well ahead of the required rate.
Thailand lost their first wicket after an opening partnership of 35 as Nattakan Chantam was caught at point for 16. Stand-in captain Nattaya Boochatham is developing into a fine orthodox left-hander who is content to bide her time and wait for the bad balls so she was more than capable of seeing her side home to victory. After 10 overs Thailand were only six short of victory with one wicket down.
Naruemol Chaiwai has also been able to develop her game when opening the batting in 40-over matches and she stayed with her captain as Thailand completed an impressive nine-wicket victory by reaching 50 for one in just 11.4 overs. Nattaya Boochatham was unbeaten on 15 and it was fitting that she hit the winning runs. Thailand had shown their superiority over Malaysia and it is encouraging that the team seems to be getting stronger and stronger as they move from one tournament to the next.
Malaysia Women 49 for 8 (20 overs overs)
Nattakan Chantam 4 for 6
Thailand Women 50 for 1 (11.4 overs)
Thailand won by 9 wickets
Nattakan Chantam 16, Nattaya Boochatham 15*