Sanjida Islam. © ICC

The highest individual score by a Bangladesh batter in T20Is was an unbeaten 66 by Fargana Hoque. That was before Sanjida Islam played the innings she did on Saturday (September 7) at Forthill in Dundee.

That knock had helped Bangladesh down Thailand by 70 runs in the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019. Both teams have qualified for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, 2020 to be played in Australia.

Thailand were absent. Well, the team that had had many people in awe with its performances in the competition didn’t seem to turn up for the final. Or probably, it was overawed by the occasion. Irrespective of whatever it was, Bangladesh made merry.

Choosing to bat, Islam and Murshida Khatun began well. They were helped by a wayward Chanida Sutthiruang at the start. Full tosses, wayward bowling and some misfield accompanied the start of the match, something that wasn’t in Thailand’s repertoire. As a result, the openers made merry and endured a wicketless power play, assimilating 40 runs in the phase.

After the fielding restrictions were lifted, the flow of runs slowed down a tad. However, the duo tried to cover it up by smashing Onnicha Kamchomphu’s second over for 14 overs. While Islam hit a six, Khatun followed it up with a four.

Bangladesh were 68 without loss at the ten-over mark.

Suleeporn Laomi bowled the next one of the innings, her third one. It was a half-tracker that could have been despatched anywhere. But Khatun missed the attempted pull and saw her leg stump disturbed. Finally, Thailand had managed to pick up a wicket.

But Islam was showing no signs of abetting. She mixed caution with aggression as she moved to 45 off 42 balls, taking Bangladesh’s score to 95/2 after 15 overs.

Soon enough, a flighted delivery from Kamchomphu was smashed to the deep mid-wicket fence, bisecting the gap between deep mid-wicket and long on. It was the first time Islam had crossed the fifty-run format in T20Is. Her elated celebration was apt for the occasion.

At the other end, Nigar Sultana and Shaila Sharmin just gave the strike back to Islam during their time in the middle. They didn’t contribute much with the bat, though.

Islam finished unbeaten on 71 off just 60 balls, with four fours and three sixes, to make the record of the highest individual score by a Bangladesh player her own. Her effort had helped Bangladesh set Thailand a target of 131 in their 20 overs.

But Thailand were absent. Their batters found out that runs were being sold at a premium. Natakkan Chantam fell in the last ball of the second over. She missed a back-foot punch to be castled. Nahida Akter was at it again. In her next over, she also got rid of Naruemol Chaiwai.

By the time the power play ended, Thailand had only seven wickets in hand and had only 13 overs on the board.

It was slow-moving traffic for them as they found Bangladesh’s strongest suit – their bowling – too hot to handle. At the end of the tenth over, Thailand were four wickets down for just 20. Just one four had been hit.

Was anybody missing Test match cricket? Slow batting, attritional cricket and spinners in action – it seemed to have it all. Just that it wasn’t attritional.

Wongpaka Liengprasert was the first to enter double figures for Thailand in the final. By the time the match ended, Ratanaporn Padunglerd had an unbeaten 15 against her name. Only two batters crossing the eight-run mark.

Apart from Akter, Sharmin picked up a couple of wickets. While the former finished with 2/17 off her four overs, the latter finished the match with 2/9 in the three overs she bowled. They had helped restrict Thailand to just 60.

Although the final match of the tournament was lost, Thailand had won many hearts, as their captain Sornnarin Tippoch admitted post the game. “We have to work on many aspects of our game,” she said.

Happy Bangladesh faces, happy Thailand memories. The Qualifier had indeed thrown up a new team into focus.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 130/5 in 20 overs (Sanjida Islam 71*; Nattaya Boochatham 2/31) beat Thailand (Nahida Akter 2/17, Shaila Sharmin 2/9) by 70 runs.