The under-16 national cricket team will face China in the first match of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) U16 Eastern Region Cup at Chiang Mai, Thailand on December 11.

The team spent five days training to acclimatise in Bangkok.

The team played two practice matches against Thailand on Wednesday and Friday. The team is expecting to play better matches despite limited experience in the pre-competition match.

The team lost to Thailand U-16 team by 12 runs. Thailand won the toss and decided to bat first. Bhutan held Thailand to 107 runs but could secure only 95 runs at the end of the second innings with its all batsman out.

Bhutan chose to bat after winning the toss in the second practice match against the same team. The team scored 76. Losing only three wickets in 23 overs, Thailand defeated Bhutan by seven wickets, securing two wins in a week, ahead of their match against Nepal.

Team Captain, Tshering Penjor said playing the practice matches helped us learn and improve. “Despite the losses, it helped us prepare mentally. Losing any match is difficult but we will always be positive. We see a lot of areas for improvement,” he said.

He added that the team is less confident.

“Many players are playing their first international tournament. We feel afraid and fail to apply the right techniques. We’ll keep learning as we know we’ve limited chance to win the tournament,” he said.

Bhutan will play China for the second time in five years on Monday. The two played for the first time in the same place in 2012 during ACC U16 Challenge Cup. However, Bhutan lost to China by 13 runs.

The team practiced for two weeks on a synthetic rubber pitch, before leaving for the practice match on November 4. The team includes students selected from five different dzongkhags.

Coach Kencho Norbu said that the players lack the experience of playing on a natural turf.

“They need to get adapted to the turf. The practice match went as expected but the players got easily tired because of the heat,” he said.

The coach said he is confident that they can play and compete with other teams.

“We need to focus on batting than on bowling and we need to be mentally tough.”

Except for the three players who played in U-19 ACC eastern region tournament held in Malaysia in September the remaining 11 players are playing their first regional tournament.

The coach said that the team would work hard to keep opponents’ scores as low as possible if the team decides to bowl first in the match against China.

“We keep our goals simple. We want to play a simple and hopefully, will achieve the expected result.”

A total of eight countries from East Asia will take part in a week-long tournament hosted by Thailand. Bhutan is placed in the group B along with China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Group A includes Thailand, Hongkong, Myanmar, and Nepal. Top two teams from each group will proceed to the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, one of the Bhutanese umpires, Ugyen Dorji will officiate international matches for the first time making him the third Bhutanese to officiate international competitions.

The tournament will be played in 35 overs format and ends on December 17.