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Nattaya leads Thailand into Asian Games quarter-finals

Nepal Women v Thailand Women at Incheon, South Korea Sunday, 21 September 2014
Nattaya leads Thailand into Asian Games quarter-finals

Before the start of 2014 Nattaya Boochatham was best known as a useful all-round cricketer who was a dependable opening bowler who could also score valuable runs down the order. She was given the chance to play some 50-over domestic cricket in Sri Lanka and she discovered that she had the application necessary to stay at the crease for long periods. She was an outstanding success when batting at number three in the ACC Women’s Premier 40-over competition early in 2014 and she has carried on in imprssive fashion in the Asian Games cricket competition in South Korea.

She was asked to captain the side against Malaysia in the absence of Sornnarin Tippoch and also took the responsibility of opening the batting and was there to score the winning runs as Thailand won by nine wickets. Now against a stronger Nepal side, she did it again, captained the side and saw Thailand home to victory by six wickets and a place in the quarter-finals. She has developed into a left-hander with an impeccable technique and enormous powers of concentration and she has shown that these are still important attributes even in 20-over cricket particularly in low-scoring encounters.

Nattaya has done the almost impossible in taking the place of Sornnarin Tippoch as the rock on which Thailand women’s cricket is being built although it is hoped that the full-time captain will be back in the side for Thailand’s quarter-final match against Pakistan. The Thai girls probably deserved a more favourable draw given the level of their performances over the last two years but they are now ready to face Asian Games champions on even terms.

Nattaya’s day started well as she won the toss and elected to field against Nepal as Thailand were looking to repeat the fine performance they gave against Malaysia who were restricted to just 49 for 8 in their 20 overs. Chanida Sutthiruang took an early wicket and this was followed by a run out and Wongpaka Lienprasert, so economical against Malaysia, soon claimed two more wickets. Nepal were struggling on 17 for 4 at the halfway point of their innings.

Matches between Thailand and Nepal used to be evenly contested but Thailand's bowling has improved markedly over the last two years so Nepal had been bowled out for 38 and 39 in the two most recent encounters. It was good to see Nary Thapa is back playing for Nepal after missing the ACC Women's Premier tournament and she and Mamta Chaudhary were staging a recovery as 25 runs came from overs 11 to 15.

Wongpaka Liengprasert returned to bowl her final over and finished with figures of 4-0-9-2 but she was made to look expensive by Rattana Sangsoma's off-spin as she conceded her first run in her third over and dismissed Nary Thapa for a valuable 18 from 39 balls. Rattana's figures were a frugal 3-2-1-1 and Nepal were 47 for 5 with 3 overs left.

The fifty came up in the 18th over but Mamta Chaudhary was well caught by Sainammin Saenya and Thailand followed with their second run out of the innings thanks to a direct hit from Naruemol Chaiwai. Six runs came from the final over which was completed with another run out as keeper threw to bowler as Nepal finished on 64 for 8. 47 runs came in the secodnd half of the innings so at least Nepal's bowlers ha some sort of target to defend.

Thailand would have been confident of chasing down a target of 65 in 20 overs but Nepal's bowling attack is strong enough to provide a decent test ahead of what might face the team in the quarter-finals. Only one boundary was scored in Nepal's innings but the Thai girls may look to be more positive.

Nepal were doing their best to make a contest of this match as Nattakan Chantam was bowled for nine by a ball that kept low and Naruemol Chaiwai fell lbw to the first ball bowled by off-spinner Sarita Magar to leave Thailand on 18 for two. Pundarika Prathanmitr came in to join captain Nattaya Boochatham and quickly a glimpse of her power with an off-drive for four.

Spin was on at both ends and the total was rising mainly in singles. Progress was steady as both Nattaya and Pundarika reached double figures. 32 were now needed in 12 overs with eight wickets in hand.

Thailand lost their third wicket with 36 on the board as Pundarika fell for 11 as Sarita Magar gained her second lbw decision of the day. Sirintra Saengsakorat was now at the crease and Thailand were looking to their captain to take the initiative. Nattaya was content to play out a maiden and the match was in the balance at the halfway point of Thailand's innings. 29 runs were needed with 7 wickets in hand.

A sequence of 12 balls without a run was broken as Sirintra got off the mark and followed with an off drive for two as Sarita Magar finished her spell with figures of 4-0-16-2. Nattaya lifted the pressure as she off-drove a full toss for a welcome boundary and the captain's calmness has rubbed off on her junior partner as Sirintra also waited for a bad ball and hit it for four as nine runs came from the 12th over.

Thailand's fifty came up as the first ball of the 13th over was a wide and Nary Thapa also contributed a no ball before bowling Sirintra for 7 as Thailand lost their fourth wicket on 53. Chanida Sutthiruang is very capable with the bat so Thailand still looked comfortable with Nattaya as solid as a rock. Four runs were needed with six overs to be bowled.

Nattaya brought scores level with a single from the first ball of the 16th over and Chanida managed a leg-bye from the next ball to bring Thailand to victory by six wickets with 28 balls to spare. Nattaya, unbeaten on 24 from 42 balls, has not been dismissed in either innings she has played in the competition and she is the foundation that Thailand's batting is now built on. The girls can be proud of their ninth consecutive victory at this level as they have comfirmed their reputation as the best side in ACC women's cricket.

Thailand's victories over Malaysia and Nepal mean that they have won their group and according to the original draw they would now be facing Japan in the quarter-finals, a team who they outperformed in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers. Instead a late change of mind leaves them facing a quarter-final against defending champions Pakistan. It is a tough draw for group winners and a side that have proved themselves so capable over the last two years but it is a test that the Thai girls are now more than ready to take on.

Nepal Women 64 for 8 (20 overs)
Nary Thapa 18, Mamta Chaudhary 17; Wongpaka Liengprasert 2 for 9

Thailand Women 65 for 4 (15.2 overs)
Nattaya Boochatham 24*; Sarita Magar 2 for 16

Thailand won by 6 wickets