Two teams made up of Thai junior cricketers are taking part in the Chiang Mai Senior League and it made for a memorable day when the two teams, Chol Phratan Phataek and Gymkhana Juniors, faced each other in the first match to be held at the new ‘Royal’ cricket ground.
There had been torrential rain overnight in the city but all was well at Royal Chiang Mai where a new cricket square had recently been added to an immaculate sports field which was part of one of Chiang Mai’s most picturesque golf courses.
A lot of hard work had been put into the project with the ground staff learning how to mark out a cricket pitch just two days before the match, and the two young teams staged an epic contest with CPP from Doi Saket fighting back to defeat Gymkhana Juniors by three wickets.
Songtaews brought the two junior teams to the new ground, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered, and all was ready for the start as CPP won the toss and chose to field first in a 30-over match with with everybody wondering how the new pitch would play.
Gymkhana Juniors lost an early wicket as Choo was bowled by Ka but Anim and Nikom provided a steady start against the new ball as the score stood at 24 for one after the first 10 overs.
Anim played out two maidens from the accurate Ka and occasionally went for a big shot, but the innings was in need of impetus when Gymkhana captain Bunchuai walked to the crease at 33 for two in the 12th over after Nikom was caught behind for 8.
The introduction of spin after 15 overs with only 41 runs scored finally allowed Gymkhana Juniors to increase the run-rate as Bunchuai hit a pair of boundaries and Anim also tried to go for his shots before he was stumped from the bowling of J for a painstaking 26 from 67 balls.
The foundation had been laid but the score was 73 for three with only nine overs left so Bunchuaai unleashed a series of boundaries and he was assisted by Chanchai who was able to give his captain the strike as they built a partnership with great skill and composure.
The spinners had been seen off and opening bowler Ped returned but his last two overs cost 20 runs as Bunchuai pulled him for three fours to bring up a high-quality fifty. He built his innings carefully at the start and then accelerated so that his last 33 runs came from just 21 balls and he received a standing ovation after retiring on 52.
A flurry of wickets brought a chaotic end to Gymkhana Juniors’ innings but they had reached 147 for 6 in their 30 overs, a much larger total than had been expected at the halfway point of their innings. Any concerns over the new pitch were unfounded as there was even bounce and equal assistance for seam and spin.
The boys from CPP have been given the opportunity to concentrate full time on cricket at their school in Doi Saket with good practice facilities and an extensive coaching staff but they would need to bat well to hold off the challenge from Gymkhana Juniors who come from a mixture of schools from Chiang Mai, Mae On and Lamphun.
Chanchai and Cher shared the new ball and put CPP’s batsmen under pressure with a combination of away swing and off-cutters and both were rewarded with wickets as both openers were dismissed as the score reached 36 for two after 10 overs.
Anim was introduced early to bowl his leg-spin which proved to be a mixture of the unreachable and the unplayable as he delivered no fewer than 13 wides in five overs but also claimed three wickets as Yon, Ped and Ka were all dismissed stumped by keeper Bunchuai.
With J also falling caught behind from the bowling of Choo, the CPP innings looked to be in ruins at 55 for six in the 15th over with Bunchuai adding three stumpings and a catch to his classy innings.
But the match was by no means over as CPP’s three most experienced cricketers were batting at seven, eight and nine in the order. Wicket-keeper Tong has already played for the senior Thailand team and he took advantage of time in the middle in the lead up to the ACC Challenge competition in December, but it was Gun who stole the headlines with a succession of powerful shots.
The pair quickly built a partnership of 61 for the seventh wicket which was ended when Tong was bowled by Formot for 14, but CPP captain Chai gave his support to Gun who reached his fifty from 45 balls with nine fours. Nok, Lamphun girls’ star cricketer, was brought on to bowl and can be complemented on bowling three tidy overs without bowling any wides.
Only three runs were needed when Gun retired on 51 and it was left to captain Chai to hit the winning boundary as CPP gained victory by three wickets with only nine balls to spare. It was their second win in two matches and took them to the top of the league table.
Both young sides could be congratulated on the way they played with Gymkhana Juniors so close to claiming a surprise victory but thanks to Gun CPP had enough firepower down the order to rebuild their innings and claim a narrow win.
Cricket in Chiang Mai was the real winner on a wonderful day as the province now has three outstanding cricket grounds. The new ground at Royal Chiang Mai Golf Course looked as pretty as a picture, has an impressive pavilion and the pitch played better than expected on its first day.
It is hoped that Royals will prove a regular new home for youth cricket in Chiang Mai players and spectators alike should be encouraged to visit as it is in an idyllic location on the outskirts of Royal Chiang Mai Golf Course. It is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
Gymkhana Juniors 147 for 6 (30 overs)
Anim 26, Bunchuai 52*; Eddie 2 for 23
CPP 150 for 7 (28.3 overs)
CPP won by 3 wickets
Gan 51*; Anim 3 for 28