"The boys are a little nervous," said China's manager Zhang Tian, before the start of the match, "it's the first international tournament for many of them." The margin of Thailand's victory over them suggests that China were outclassed yet again in the international arena, but they did a couple of things which leads one to think that they are starting to find their feet at this level.

Thanatit Jirapanthawong catches Zhong Wenyi off the bowling of Nishad Rego

For the first time, China played aggressively off the back-foot, up to now in their years of youth cricket it has been front-foot and back-foot defense with occasional attack, today we saw pulls as well as drives. And in the short time they had in which to defend their 39 runs, there were several examples of fine fielding.

The Iran squad who were watching from the sidelines, and who had smacked China for 369 in the tournament's opening match, commented on how much China had improved in the few days in between. "They're a different side", said one of them.

Zhao Yang heaves Hottinger

China's captain opener Zhao Yang was indeed positive from the start, pulling John Hottinger from outside off to the midwicket boundary. Little Li Jian, promoted up the order to open was also positive in attack and defence. Thailand's bowlers kept putting  the ball in the right place though: Yang was bowled through the gate by Deepak Saraff and John Hottinger received his reward for probing wicket-to-wicket bowling by having Li Jian leg-before for 4, Hottinger generating a fair head of steam from the Garden End.

Thailand's golden arm of the tournament so far Shyam Sideek, crafty old dog that he is, realized that fast and flat off-breaks were going to give him most purchase on the skiddy wicket and he scalped Jiang Shuyao with his third ball.

Zhang Yufei, pretty much a veteran in China with two years of international cricket, held firm at the other end, hitting slow left-armer Senamontree for four the first ball he faced from him, but he fell to a good catch at silly mid-on. Wang Ronggang struck a terrific drive first ball he faced from Senamontree and then in the next over drove crisply through midwicket. Senamontree's been around a while at this level, though, and next ball he tossed up a little wider, Ronggang going for the slog-sweep, stumped smartly by Tewari.

China were all out for 39, Thailand bowling and fielding sharply.

Wang Ronggang bowls to Nishad Rego

China may have only been playing cricket for a couple of years but they have been ball-playing athletes for longer. They are fighting fit in the field. A good catch by Jiang Shuyao at cover to dismiss the aggressive Hottinger, and excellent fielding two balls later by the same fielder – pounce, pick-up, throw - ran out Sideek and Thailand, were just under a little pressure. Batsmen who had no expectation of going in, were scrambling for their pads.

Rego and Tanwani held firm, however, Rego showing he's quite a batsman in the short time available.

Thailand's Noppon Senamontree, Man of the Match

Zhang Tian found some silver linings: "The intention of the CCA is that the team deliver what they have practiced, fielding and bowling have improved but batting is more complicated and we have still much work to do."

ACC Trophy Challenge 2009
Thailand v China at Prem Oval
Thailand won the toss and elected to field
China: 39 off 20.2 overs (N.Senamontree 4-21)
Thailand: 40 for 2 after 6.3 overs
Man of the Match: Noppon Senamontree (Thailand)

ACC Trophy Challenge 2009

Filed January 15, 2009