|Yu Miao faces Rubina Chhetry|
China overcame the hurdle of Nepal on their quest to win the ACC Women’s Premier, getting home by 69 runs. China’s batting wasn’t at its best but their bowlers did the job for them. Both unbeaten so far, China set up a title-deciding contest with Thailand on Tuesday. "We've improved with every match, different part of our game each time," said China's coach former Bangladesh international Monjurul Islam. Thailand are the favourites but China could well spring a win.
Nepal haven't matched China's climb in recent years though. China won the toss and as ever, chose to make first use of the track. Nepal struck first, Sun Mengyao trapped in front second ball by Sonu Khadka. Zhang Mei looked untroubled by the new ball bowlers, unleashing a series of well-timed drives. Even her defensive strokes resounded off the bat. Yu Miao was caught behind from one that bounced off a length from medium-pacer Saraswati Chaudhary and then Zhang Mei (31 off 57 balls, two 4s) was surprised by one that bounced in off-spinner Karuna Bhandari’s second over and top-edged the pull she compensated with to be caught at fine leg inside the circle. Sun Huan, who has been in good form this event, had her leg stump tickled by Karuna after scoring 15 and China were 68 for 4 in the 20th over at that point, the game in the balance.
China’s captain Huang Zhuo who looks full of runs whenever she comes to wicket, steadied China with young left-hander Liu Xionan, and put on 21 before she, as is typical of so many of the talented Chinese batters gifted her wicket away, this time through a run out to mid-on Sarita Magar running to the bowler’s end. Nepal were quick to the ball in the field, the infield sharp. Rubina Chhetry wasn’t at her best, but everyone else stepped up and apart from the gift of 25 wides China had to work hard for their runs. More singles could have been taken but runs accumulated steadily, with Liu Xionan impressing.
|Wang Meng puts in the dive|
Liu sacrificed herself in the late overs’ run chase and even though China couldn’t really accelerate in the last 10 overs, making 44, it had been an absorbing morning’s play, both sides doing all that they could to impose themselves. There is a new found competiveness throughout the China side now, they bat deep and no longer rely on just a few players. China finished on 159 for 8, Nepal would need exactly four an over to win.
|Nepal preparing for their innings|
Sita Rana Magar oozed composure at the crease, so much time to play she has, and such a graceful strokeplayer, until she was out. Sita popped up a catch to short extra cover from off-spinner Zhou Haijie who opened the bowling from the Marsh End. Nepal were 6 for 1 at the end of the fourth. Neera Rajopadhyay, one of the batters with a hundred in Nepal’s domestic season, was sent in early to play her strokes, and that she did, driving Haijie sweetly to long-on for the first Nepal boundary.
After 10 overs, Nepal were 28 for 1, needing to score at 4.4 an over from now in. China had kept it tight, just three wides up to then. Deliveries were landing on a length, on or outside off for the most part and Nepal were trying to be as positive as possible. Sarita Magar was trapped in front by a Wu Juan off-break and then, in the next over, with no further runs on the board Neera miscued a drive on the off, to be caught at point by the safe hands of Zhou Haijie. Nepal 31 for 3 and three big names back in the tent. Karuna hit a Ravi Shastri (“spanking cover drive”), off Yu Miao’s medium-pace. Nepal were still in it.
|Nepal's captain has to go|
Mamta Thapa was trapped plumb in front by Wu Juan, playing back, and at the halfway stage Nepal were 56 for 4, needing 5.2 an over from now on. China varying their bowlers, not allowing any batter to settle against them. Much rested on the lithe shoulders of Nepal’s captain Rubina Chhetry. She had rescued Nepal against Bhutan at the same ground two days earlier, could she do it again? She survived longer than Karuna Bhandari (15 off 35 balls, two 4s) who tickled a Han Lili leg-break to the ‘keeper but China’s wicket-keeper Liu Xionan had the over-balancing Rubina stumped off a wide delivery two balls later. Liu’s a genuine talent; China always had a bowler who threatened. Nepal were 66 for 6 in the 25th over, needing a run a ball from now in.
|As does Saraswati|
Saraswati tried hard, came down the wicket to hit Lili over the top, but was beaten by the turn and Liu did the rest behind the stumps. Nepal 66 for 6 in the 25th over. Yu Miao didn’t bowl at anything like her best but picked up three wickets. Han Lili again took the critical wickets, ably supported by Wu Juan. With five wickets and a valuable 26, China’s wicket-keeper was Player of the Match.
Thailand and China have been rivals for five years now, their games always closely contested. They met in the final of last year's ACC Women's Championship but the most intense contest of them all was in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou Tuesday’s ‘final’, the last match in this six-team round robin event should be no different. They are both strong bowling sides, full of fine competitors.
Pictures by Danny Bowes
ACC Women’s Premier 2014
Day 6: China v Nepal at Chiang Mai Gymkhana
CHINA WON BY 69 RUNS
China won the toss and chose to bat
China: 159 for 8 off 40 overs (Z.Mei 31)
Nepal: 90 all out off 36.1 overs (Y.Miao 3-22, H.Lili 3-21)
Player of the Match: Liu Xiaonan (China)
Filed February 16th, 2014