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The day got off to an early start for the Hong Kong team with a bus departure from Kowloon Cricket Club at 6:30AM. A smooth border crossing ensured the team arrived at the Shenzhen University Stadium ground at 8AM. Although a smattering of rain fell enroute to the ground, conditions were generally fine, with occasional cloud providing a little respite from the blazing sun.
Upon arrival, an inspection of the ground showed no sign of any wicket area. Any uncertainty over the pitch conditions was soon resolved when a multi-coloured Flicx Cricket Mat was rolled out and laid perpendicular to the goal posts on the football pitch arena. The boundary markings were then laid, with the straight boundaries encroaching on the running track circling the ground. Longish, patchy grass covered the sandy outfield, making conditions soft underfoot.
In their first official outing, the Chinese Women's skipper Mei Chen Hua won the toss and elected to bat. The format of the match was the same for the upcoming ACC Women's Tournament to be played in Malaysia next month, with both teams batting for 30 overs and bowlers being restricted to a maximum of six overs each.
The Chinese batters were in trouble early when Betty Chan trapped Sun Huan LBW in the very first over. She claimed her second LBW victim in her third over to leave the China Women on 2 for 11 with all but one run coming from extras. The Chinese Women were finding it difficult to get the bowling away, although the regular indiscretions from the bowlers keeping the score ticking over. A 14-run partnership between Lin Biyn and Duan Qiong was the most productive of the China innings, lifting the score to 25 before Kaori Iida claimed her first wicket of the day by clean bowling Biyn. The China skipper was next to fall when she lifted the ball into the outfield where Renee Montgomery hung on to a miraculous catch.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals, with Godiva Li claiming two wickets in consecutive balls. The stubborn Qiong was trapped LBW after batting just shy of 90 minutes and facing 71 balls but she was only able to register six runs off the bat. Number 9 Chen Yuan brought up the first boundary in the 29th over, much to the delight of the raucous supporters. To their credit, the China Women batted out their 30 overs, posting a total of 59 for the loss of 8 wickets.
For Hong Kong, Godiva Li and Betty Chan claimed three wickets each while Kaori Iida picked up two. Youngsters Kristine Wong and Chan Sau Har also bowled well, although both remained wicketless. Thirteen year-old Chan Sau Har's six over spell conceded just five runs and included three maidens, with only one run being scored off the bat whilse Kristine's Wong's six overs only conceded six runs.
Neisha Pratt opened the batting with Sarah Eames and the two got Hong Kong's chase off to a safe start as both scored early runs. The soft outfield made boundaries hard to come by so progress was initially quite slow. Eames was living a little dangerously at times as she took on the arms of the Chinese fielders, colliding with the wicket-keeper on at least three occasions as she scampered through for each run.
The two Hong Kong batters were reasonably untroubled by the Chinese attack, although the erratic bounce from the Flicx matting created a couple of worrying moments. However Pratt didn't have to worry about the matting when she smote a six from a full-toss to bring up her first boundary of the day. She followed that shortly afterwards with a well-struck four to the point boundary. Eames also stroked one classic boundary through covers and she would have had a second had she not completed the winning run before the ball crossed the boundary rope. Pratt finished unbeaten on 26 from 40 balls while Eames scored 11 not out from 39 balls. Hong Kong's ten-wicket victory was achieved in 13.2 overs. Wang Meng was the best of the Chinese bowlers, conceding just five runs from her three over spell.
Hong Kong was clearly the better team in this historic fixture against a very young and inexperienced China side and they thoroughly deserved their victory. However the China players have made excellent progress under the tutelage of Rashid Khan, the former Pakistani fast bowler, and with further experience under their belts, a more evenly contested match will be expected when the two teams meet again in the future.
In the after match speeches, Hong Kong Women's Team Manager, Mark Burns, proposed that matches between the Hong Kong and China women's teams become a regular fixture on the local cricket calendar - a proposal well received by both teams.
The next match may well be much sooner than expected as both teams head to Malaysia in early July to play in the inaugural ACC Women's Cricket Tournament. Whilst the teams are placed in different groups, good performances may see them face-off in one of the competition semi-finals.
Update:A rematch between the Hong Kong and China Women's teams has been arranged on 4th July 2007 at Kowloon Cricket Club. See Hong Kong Women v. China Women for match details.