Thailand, Zimbabwe lock horns with T20I series on the line

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The first half of Thailand and their Africa sojourn is coming to a close. Their itinerary included matches against Zimbabwe and South Africa Emerging. Against Zimbabwe, they began the one-dayers with a loss in the first game, before winning the second and the fourth games to square the series. And ever since, the pattern of alternate wins and losses has ensued.

Zimbabwe took the first T20I in the narrow win over Thailand. Thailand came back with a dominant all-round display to take the second match of the series. It has all come down to a ‘winner takes it all’ clash which will be played on Monday (August 30) at the Takashinga Sports Club in Harare.

The series began with both teams having an eye on the respective regional qualifiers for the T20 World Cup 2023. The Africa Qualifier start on September 9 and Zimbabwe have quite a few holes to plug, none more than their batting. Even though they managed to escape to a win in the first T20I – their 15th successive one in the format – their batters made a heavy weather of a relatively easy chase. Only Modester Mupachikwa and Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano got starts.

On Saturday, they fell well short of Thailand’s 154 to go down in the game and lose for the first time in T20Is. While it does put additional pressure on the batters to stand up and be counted, it will also test the hosts’ response as a group, having experienced a loss in international cricket for the first time.

Nomvelo Sibanda, the left-arm seamer has been a bright spot for them in the bowling department, returning economical spells in the first two T20Is after having done well in the preceding one-dayers. A wicket or two at the start with the ball could do her as well Zimbabwe a world of good. The death overs is also an area of focus for the hosts, having leaked 51 in the second game.

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Thailand, on the other hand, have almost aced the art of coming back after a loss on this tour. Nattaya Boochatham, who has picked seven wickets across the first two games so far, became the first from Thailand to 50 T20I wickets in the process. Her form with the bat at the top, with Nattakan Chantham, should please the tourists. The latter notched up the highest individual T20I score for Thailand on Saturday.

But like with most teams in international cricket, the middle order looks a bit suspect and they would aim to stand up to be counted, if they are to be exposed early. Naruemol Chaiwai, the skipper, scored a ton in the 50-over games, showing that she has the ability to do it.

Chanida Suthhiruang has been using the long handle to good effect. But her inconsistent returns have meant that Thailand don’t always end up posting a decent score. These are some of the areas Thailand would like to iron out – they do have the series against South Africa Emerging to do so – ahead of the Asia Qualifier, which is expected to be played in November.

Expect Zimbabwe to come out all guns blazing, even though Thailand have the momentum.

Squads

Zimbabwe: Mary-Anne Musonda (C), Modester Mupachikwa, Chiedza Dhururu, Ashley Ndiraya, Josephine Nkomo, Precious Marange, Christabel Chatonzwa, Tasmeen Granger, Esther Mbofana, Loreen Tshuma, Nomvelo Sibanda, Loryn Phiri, Nyasha Gwanzura, Audrey Mazvishaya, Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano, Mitchel Mavunga, Nomatter Mutasa-Ziyambi

Thailand: Naruemol Chaiwai (C), Nannapat Khoncharoenkrai, Nattaya Boochatham, Ratanaporn Padunglerd, Chanida Sutthiruang, Nattakan Chantham, Suleeporn Laomi, Sornnarin Tippoch, Rosenanee Kanoh, Wongpaka Liengprasert, Phannita Maya, Onnicha Kampchomphu, Thipatcha Putthawong, Aphisara Suwanchonrathi, Sunida Chaturongrattana