Thirty-eight games into the ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship we came to a Final between the two best teams in the competition. Both unbeaten so far. Hong Kong were the favourites going in but Thailand’s spirit, energy and skill could not be discounted.

It turned out to be a cracker of a match.

There was a crowd of 150, seven of the teams in the competition (China, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal Qatar, Singapore and UAE), staying to watch the Final. Support was evenly split between the two teams, every time a roar for Hong Kong came up, it was followed by a ‘Let’s go Thailand, let’s go.”

Neisha Pratt Keenu Gill

Hong Kong’s openers Keenu Gill and Neisha Pratt hit hard at anything short and wide, and had Maneerat Bevacqua held on to a head-high chance at cover when Gill was on 12, the match could have gone differently. Even more so had Neisha Pratt been held on the square-leg boundary by Naruemol Chawai when she was on 10.

In between the big hits there was plenty of tip and run, the Thai bowlers and fielders never being allowed to assert the control they’ve done in their other games. A late cut for four by Pratt to end the eighth over, the shot of the day.

Thanapan Saisud took the all important wicket of Neisha Pratt

Hong Kong were on 52 for 0 after 10, Pratt on 26, Gill on 20, with 120 on the cards for their team.

Pratt fell for 27, a good catch by Sivaporn Kosathong running backwards at mid-on just inside the circle. The prodigy Chan Sau Har fell soon after to bring in the hard-hitting Inzamim-ish Connie Wong. Thailand were just starting to get back into the match, when Connie Wong hit the tournament’s second 6, ten yards over midwicket. After 15 overs, Hong Kong were 78 for 2.

Thailand did well to never let Hong Kong really get away, the spinners being significantly harder to get away then the faster bowlers. With two overs to go Hong Kong were 93 for 2, Keenu Gill still in on 38. Since that 6 at the end of the 15th over, there was only one more boundary. Gill fell for 39 receiving a generous hand from all in the crowd but Connie Wong kept going to finish on 22. Hong Kong’s 106 something that both teams would have settled for at the start of the innings, with Thailand just a little happier than Hong Kong.

Thailand’s batters have won matches after poor starts but against poorer bowling than Hong Kong’s. Hong Kong are a very good bowling side, the best in the competition. Naruemol Chaiwai fell in the first over, caught at cover off the terrific pace-bowling prospect Godiva Li at the end of the first over. So far according to Thai custom. Could they yet fashion a famous come-from-behind victory? A lot would depend on their talismanic captain Sornnarin Tippoch. A stocky left-hander, she wins no prizes for grace and style but she gets right behind the ball and has the heart of a champion.

Together with Pundarika Prathanmitr, Tippoch fashioned a Thai recovery. After 5 overs Thailand were 27 for 1. They were running better than in other matches, and finding the gaps. Connie Wong did find Tippoch’s outside edge in the sixth over but the chance was missed. The score ticked along but boundaries had dried up. At the half-way stage Thailand were 41 for 1, needing better than a run-a-ball to win.

Tippoch hit the first Thai boundary since the fourth over at the end of the eleventh but Prathanmitr fell to a good overhead catch two balls later and Thailand were 49 for 2 which became 49 for 3 three balls later, Keenu Gill getting the double breakthrough.

Sornnarin Tippoch

Tippoch took two fours off Gill’s next over and Sivaporn hit another, 14 off the 14 th over and Thailand were back in it at 68 for 3. The great Javed Miandad was watching from the pavilion and he too applauded a Thai fightback reminiscent of so many of his own innings.

Just about the only thing that could stop Tippoch would have been a recurrence of the cramp which befell her in the semi-final against China and it struck again. A runner for Tippoch was needed in that match, this time she was sent back. Tippoch would have to do it on her own.

With 5 overs to go, Thailand needed 35, seven wickets in hand. Connie Wong came back from the Road End, four came off the over. 31 needed, 24 balls left. 11 off the next Betty Chan over. 20 needed off 18. The Hong Kong camp had their eyes on the scoreboard after every delivery. Connie Wong bowled a great last over in her spell, just 3 coming off it. 17 off 12 needed. The China team was quiet but the Thai supporters were cheering their team on.

The last over: Thailand wanted 10. Young Ishitaa Gidwani to bowl the last over. Single to fine leg. Tippoch was run out going for a second to Keenu Gill at square leg. 8 off 4. Swing and a miss by Thanapan Saisud. Punch to mid-on, single. 7 off 2. Another single to mid-on. 6 off 1, Sivaporn on strike. Wide. 5 off 1.

Gidwaani comes running in, confident, smile on her face. Length ball outside off. No contact with the bat and Hong Kong had won by 4 runs.

Top game. “All the hard work by the team for the past four months has paid off,” said Hong Kong’s coach Aftab Habib. It had to: “it was very hard work out there today”, said Hong Kong’s captain Neisha Pratt.

Thailand had done really well, and are a team with a good present and a great future. Women’s cricket in Asia is here to stay.

Hong Kong's Neisha Pratt accepts the 2009 ACC Women's Championship Trophy from MCA President Tunku Imran
Player of the Match Hong Kong's Keenu Gill with ACC Development Manager Bandula Warnapura

Pictures by Peter Lim

ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship
FINAL: Hong Kong v Thailand at Kinrara Oval
Hong Kong won the toss and chose to bat
Hong Kong: 106 for 4 off 20 overs (K. Gill 39, N. Pratt 27, C. Wong 23*)
Thailand: 102 for 4 off 20 overs (P. Prathanmitr 20, S. Tippoch 37; K. Gill 2-17)
Player of the Match: Keenu Gill (Hong Kong)

ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship 2009

Filed July 11th, 2009