Before we all had to give in to the inevitable and the 2020 Chiang Mai Sixes was cancelled because of the inexorable spread of COVID-19 across the world, we were planning a celebration of the remarkable achievements of the Thailand Women’s cricket team over the last year.
The Sixes may not have happened for the first time since its inception in 1988 and most of us are self-isolating across the world rather than enjoying our annual pilgrimage to Chiang Mai but we can still pay tribute to the Thai girls who had made the sports headlines around the world and caught the imagination of countless cricket supporters. The Sixes magazine may not have been published this year but we can still record in full a wonderful year for the Thailand women’s team.
THAILAND QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP FOR FIRST TIME
The Thailand Women's cricket team enjoyed outstanding success during 2019 as they set a new world record of 17 consecutive T20 international victories but nothing compared to what they have just achieved in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland as they beat Papua New Guinea in the semi-finals to reach the T20 Women's World Cup in Australia.
Thailand had played in the last three global T20 Qualifiers and had climbed the world rankings but they surpassed all previous achievements by winning their three group matches by beating Netherlands, Namibia and Ireland who they had now beaten three times in the space of a month. On Thursday 5th September, Thailand played the most important match in their cricket history as they faced Papua New Guinea in the semi-finals.
Just one more victory would take them into the final of the global qualifier but more significantly Thailand would qualify for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup for the first time and face the trip of a lifetime to Australia early next year. PNG won the toss and chose to bat so Thailand would have to chase for the first time in the competition, but at least their formidable bowling attack would come into action from the start of the match.
Thailand had avoided facing Bangladesh by winning all three matches but PNG had shocked hosts Scotland and so were a dangerous side. PNG's openers were tentative but they survived the first two overs before Chanida Sutthiurang once again hit the stumps with a fantastic in-swinger and Thailand took a second wicket in the sixth over thanks to a run out as the Thai fielding was once again extremely sharp. Thailand were getting on top but it was a wonderful spell of leg-spin bowling from Suleeporn Laomi that really tied down the nervous PNG batters. She took one wicket for five from her four overs and by the time she had finished her spell PNG were 37 for 4 in 13 overs and almost out of the match.
The lower order tried to swing the bat but wickets continued to fall as big hits found the fielders and more run outs followed as PNG became desperate. Sornnarin Tippoch bowled her four overs for 12 as Thailand kept up the pressure and Chanida claimed her 12th wicket of the tournament in the final over as PNG could only score 67 for 7 in their 20 overs.
Surely Thailand were well on the way to victory and could start dreaming about the World Cup in Australia? Not quite yet as runs came slowly in the early stages but openers Nattakan Chantam and Naruemol Chaiwai held their nerve and eventually the boundaries began to come. Thailand were 20 for 0 after 6 overs and the openers had added 31 when Nattakan was out for 18 in the eighth over. Naruemol was more fluent as she was the only batter to be able to score freely as she made 32 from 40 balls.
Only four runs were needed when Naruemol was out and Nannapat Khoncharoenkai and Nattaya Boochatham were there at the end as Thailand won a momentous victory by 8 wickets with 15 balls to spare. On the biggest day of their livers the Thai girls had completely outplayed the opposition as they reached a global final and qualified for their country's first ever Cricket World Cup.
Thailand Women's story of success on the cricket field stretches back to 2008 when several of this team played in an ACC U-19 competition held in Chiang Mai including Nattakan Chantam who as young Jeen had played for the Thai Angels in the Ladies Cup the previous year. The Thailand team made national headlines for winning gold for cricket at the SEA Games in Malaysia in 2017 but this is their greatest achievement of all.
Thailand would now face Bangladesh in the final of the Qualifier and they were now one of ten teams who would be taking part in the 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup in Australia. The Land of Smiles could live up to its name as the Thailand women's cricket team celebrated a remarkable triumph. Thailand's dreams of playing in the Cricket World Cup have come true.
THAILAND LOSE IN FINAL BUT CHANIDA IS NAMED PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
Thailand finally met their match in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland as they were beaten by 70 runs in the final by a very impressive Bangladesh team who added victory in this competition to their Women's Asia Cup trophy.
Thailand were outplayed from the start after Bangladesh had chosen to bat first and for once the amazing swing bowling of Chanida Sutthiruang had not brought early wickets. Bangladesh's openers shared a stand of 68 and Sanjida Islam went on to score an unbeaten 71. Bangladesh scored 130 for 5 in their 20 overs but even the mighty Bangladeshis were made to treat the leg-spin of Suleeporn Laomi with great respect as she bowled her four overs for 13 and claimed the first wicket.
Thailand had lost twice to Bangladesh at the end of their stay in Netherlands when they had struggled to raise their run-rate above four runs an over so the target always seemed out of reach. Thailand ended on 60 for 7 as none of the top order could make a substantial contribution but at least Ratanaporn Padunglerd hit a four and a six towards the end to raise Thai spirits.
The presentation was a memorable occasion as Bangladesh were awarded their winners' trophy and Thailand were given their runners up awards. Chanida Sutthiruang more than made up for today's disappointment by being named player of the tournament after taking 12 wickets for 68. The two teams posed for photos together and danced around happily to end a memorable tournament. Chanida was later named ICC’s emerging player of the year for her outstanding achievements.
Thailand's cricketing girls had made the headlines all over the world by qualifying for their first ever World Cup but they have been reminded today of what would lie ahead in Australia. By finishing as runners up Thailand were drawn in Group B of the T20 Women's World Cup and would face contests against England, South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan. They would also play warm up matches against Bangladesh and New Zealand as they travelled across Australia on what would surely be the trip of a lifetime.
HATS OFF TO CURLY AS CHIANG MAI SIXES SHOW SUPPORT FOR THAILAND TEAM
Tropical rain storms in Queensland meant that the Thailand women's cricket team had not been able to play or practice much outside in the first two weeks of their first ever Cricket World Cup. The Thai girls were not worried by the rain or sodden outfields as everything was exciting and new and we were hoping that players and supporters from teams in the Chiang Mai Sixes would be able to support the Thailand team as they made their way round Australia.
Ian Gason of Tokyo Dingbats made it to the AB Oval in Brisbane even though the prospects of play for Thailand's warm-up match against Bangladesh were bleak. The sun did come out but could not dry a wet outfield but Curly took his chance to meet the team and got the girls to sign two special Chiang Mai Sixes sun hats.
Ian was intending to bring the hats to the 2020 edition of the Chiang Mai Sixes and to show them off at the Welcome Party which was scheduled for 28th March. Thailand were moving on to Adelaide for a practice match against New Zealand and their official T20 World Cup campaign begins on Saturday 22nd February with a match against West Indies at the world famous WACA in Perth.
NEW ZEALAND PROVIDE A CRICKETING MASTER CLASS AS THAILAND'S DREAM BECOMES A REALITY
Thailand's women cricketers finally got their World Cup campaign underway as they played an official warm-up match against New Zealand. The Thai girls were outplayed by one of the best sides in the world but showed great spirit and several glimpses of their true ability as New Zealand won by 81 runs.
New Zealand posted an emphatic total of 194 for 4 in their 20 overs as Suzie Bates hit 78 and Amelia Kerr reached 54 but Chanida Sutthiruang could be delighted that she dismissed both players as she claimed two for 31.
Thailand lost two wickets without a run on the board but Nattaya Boochatham and Naruemol Chaiwai rebuilt the innings before Sornnarin Tippoch and Chanida Sutthiruang showed that Thailand had plenty of batting options. Thailand's captain made a responsible 21 from 31 balls but it was Chanida who caught the eye as she hit four boundaries in 36 from 31 balls.
Chanida showed why she was named ICC's emerging women's cricketer of the year with both bat and ball and it looked like her aggressive batting style pay off in Australian conditions. She is one of a number of Thai players who would show case their talents to the world during this T20 World Cup,
The New Zealand team then rounded off a memorable day for Thailand by sharing their experiences with the Thai squad as batters talked to batters and bowlers to bowlers about the finer details of international cricket at this level.
Thailand will learn so much from this wonderful experience and they were now heading to Perth where they would play West Indies at the WACA. Sometimes dreams do come true.......
THAILAND'S WORLD CUP DREAM BECOMES A REALITY
Dreams sometimes do sometimes come true in the Land of Smiles as Thailand women's cricket team made their World Cup debut against West Indies at the WACA in Perth. The Thai girls' unique brand of cricket was shown live on television across the world as they showed great application with the bat and were brilliant in the field.
After overcoming the high bounce of the WACA against a formidable pair of West Indian fast bowlers, Thailand managed to post a total of 78 for 9 in 20 overs as young wicket-keeper Nannapat Khoncharoenkai made 33 from 48 balls.
Although Thailand would have wished for a higher total, runs on the board still gave them the chance to put pressure on the West Indies as a pair of run outs reduced the opposition to 27 for 3. The excitement across the world grew as an lbw decision was given to a near perfect in-swinger from Chanida Sutthiruang.
The juniors in the Match Box at Gymkhana were cheering and the players involved in the Chiang Mai Big Bash were watching on the big screen, but with the World Cup comes DRS and the umpire's decision was overturned. West Indies won by six wickets as they reached 80 for 4 in 16.4 overs but Thailand had shown the world that they can play cricket of real quality.
THAILAND’S START BRILLIANTLY BUT ENGLAND FINISH THE STRONGER
Another important step in Thailand’s cricket history as the girls from the Land of Smiles faced England in their second match in the Women’s T20 World Cup, and the opening minutes of the match at Manuka Oval in Canberra were remarkable as both England openers were dismissed for ducks
Amy Jones was stumped by Nannapat Khoncharoenka from the bowling of Nattaya Boochatham as she came down the wicket to the second ball of the innings. Then Danni Wyatt was caught at cover off the left-arm spinner Soraya Lateh as Wongpaka Liengprasert dived forward.
Thailand did not take another wicket in the England innings as Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight shared a stand of 169 which is a record partnership in the Women’s T20 World Cup. England captain Knight scored her first century in T20 Internationals as she made 108 from 66 balls.
England’s total of 176 for 2 in 20 overs was always going to be out of Thailand’s reach but Nattakan Chantam produced a good display of her talent with an innings of 32 from 53 balls as she stroked four boundaries but Thailand were restricted to a total of 78 for 7 as England returned to winning ways with a victory by 98 runs.
Thailand had been outplayed by England but those two ducks at the top of England’s scorecard would have made Jenny Morgan and her duck ladies very proud. Quack, quack....
SOUTH AFRICA PROVE TOO STRONG FOR THAILAND
Thailand's women cricketers returned to the Manuka Oval in Canberra to play their third match in the T20 World Cup as they faced South Africa but opener Lizelle Lee gave Thailand a lesson in what is needed to dominate a 20-over match as the Thai girls suffered their third defeat.
Lee hit 16 fours and 3 sixes as she hit 101 from 60 balls and the power with which she hit the ball may have contributed to Thailand's fielding dropping below their normal high standards. Sune Luus also made an unbeaten 61 as South Africa reached a formidable 195 for 3 in 20 overs but at least Suleeporn Laomi who had bowled accurately in the last two matches got a wicket as she took a caught and bowled to finally dismiss Lee.
Thailand's openers had scored 14 in three overs before three wickets fell in consecutive balls as Nattakan Chantham was run out before Shabnim Ismail was too quick for both Nannapat Khoncharoenkai and Naruemol Chaiwai as they were both bowled first ball for ducks.
When captain Sornnarin Tippoch was out for one and the score stood on 14 for 4 the smiles were beginning to fade from Thai faces but Onnicha Kamchomphu hit 26 from 21 balls with 3 fours and a six. Chanida Sutthiruang reached 13 so Thailand were able to post their highest score of the tournament with 82 before the impressive Ismail hit the stumps for the third time to finish the innings.
Thailand had lost by 113 runs and after running West Indies quite close and making an excellent start against England, the team now understood how the best teams in the world can overpower you when you reach your first T20 World Cup. Thailand would now bow out with their last match against Pakistan at Sydney, so they were looking to go out with a bang.
THAILAND SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST IN A CAMPAIGN FULL OF SMILES
The Thailand team had enriched the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in Australia with their wonderful smiles and the clear enjoyment with which they play their cricket. In their final match of their first ever World Cup campaign they literally staggered some of the leading experts on the game with the sheer quality of their batting as they made a total of 150 for 3 in 20 overs against Pakistan at the Sydney Show Grounds.
Nattakan Chantam and Nattaya Boochatham shared an opening partnership full of astonishing shots through the off-side which some had never seen the like. But some of us had been watching these two girls bat like this for the last ten years and all of us had been supporting this team with much love as they achieved greatness for a cricket team from Thailand. Nattakan hit four fours in an over with some glorious cover drives and became the first player to hit a World Cup fifty for Thailand and left-handed Nattaya also played some drives of supreme quality.
It was a joy to watch and wonderful that so many involved with the Chiang Mai Sixes were there in Sydney to watch events unfold and of course it was most appropriate of all that Jenny Morgan and her duck ladies were present on a wonderful day for Thailand cricket. No matter that some very welcome rain came to New South Wales and Thailand could not try to defend their marvellous total.
BACK HOME TO THAILAND
Thailand’s male team also took part in an important competition as Thailand hosted their first official T20 International tournament at TCG in Bangkok. The men could not live up to the standards set by the girls as they lost all four of their matches. The ACC Eastern Region T20 saw Singapore and Hong Kong progress to the next stage of the Asia Cup, with champions Singapore being looked after by former World Cup winning coach Dav Whatmore.
The Thailand women’s team had just arrived back in the country, but lo and behold, the girls came to the ground on the last day and spent some time with Dav who is one of the most accomplished and enthusiastic coaches in the cricket world. Captain Fantastic Sornnarin Tippoch and Wonder Opener Nattakan Chantam came to talk to the media and the other officials who all thought they would be soon on their way to Chiang Mai for the Sixes. Sadly, the Sixes would soon have to be cancelled as would the forthcoming tournaments for the Thailand girls.
At least the team and all of us would now have plenty of time to look back on an amazing Australian adventure for the Thailand Women’s Cricket team.