The oldest paddler in the England men’s team is 23 years and the youngest, 15. With such a young team, England scripted a an impressive triumph, edging out the top-seed Singapore 3-2 to reach the final of the Avadh 20th Commonwealth table tennis championships here on Friday.
In the last and final league match for both England and Singapore, the former turned the tables on its head to top the group and enter the summit clash. It will meet India in the final.
Suprisingly, England didn’t send any of its five top-ranked paddlers in the world: Liam Pitchford (ranked 64 in the world), Paul Drinkhall (66), Andrew Baggaley (152), Samuel Walker (165) and Daniel Reed (209). But the young paddlers dished out an impressive performance.
Trailing 1-2, it was left to Singapore’s best player Li Hu (ranked 59) to level the scores and salvage its reputation in the fourth tie. He did that after much struggle against David Mcbeath, winning in tough four games.
The fifth and deciding tie between Helshan Weerasinghe of England and Chen Feng went the distance. Though Feng is ranked 284 places above at 176, it turned out to be an even contest.
The long rallies from the back of the table were engrossing. The 18-year-old Helshan, who trains in Sweden and plays for a Danish Club, won a lot of points with his backhand drives, and most of all he matched Feng in the rallies. When Feng hit a backhand drive way long, it signalled the end of Singapore’s hopes.
“Having played with some of the top players in the league, I was confident of playing with Feng,” said Helshan. “It was unexpected. We are happy for the win,” said Mcbeath.
Earlier, Indian women defeated England 3-1 in the semifinals while in the other last four clash Singapore blanked Wales 3-0.
The results: Second Stage:
Men:Group E: England bt Singapore 3-2 (David Mcbeath bt Chen Feng 11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9; Helshan Weerasinghe lost to Li Hu 3-11, 13-11, 8-11, 8-11; Tom Jarvis bt Chew Zhe Yu Clarence 11-7, 5-11, 11-9, 11-5; Mcbeath lost to Li Hu 2-11, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11; Weerasinghe bt Chen Feng 7-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-9, 11-7); Group F: India bt Scotland 3-0 ( Harmeet Desai bt Gavin Rumgay 11-8, 12-10, 11-9; Soumyajit Ghosh bt Christopher Wheeler 11-2, 11-6, 11-6; A. Amalraj bt Craig Howiesen 3-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9).
Women: Semifinals: India bt England 3-1 (Manika Batra bt Le Fivre Karina 11-4, 11-5, 11-6; Ankita Das bt Ho Tin-Tin 12-10, 3-11, 12-10, 11-9; K. Shamini lost to Maria Tsaptsinos 8-11, 7-11, 7-11; Manika Batra bt Ho Tin-Tin 11-5, 11-5, 11-7; Singapore bt Wales 3-0 (Li Ye bt Chloe Thomas 11-9, 11-7, 11-5, 11-5; Zhou Yihan bt Carey Charlotte 11-5, 11-4, 11-4; Koh Kai Xin Pearlyn bt Megan Phillips 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 13-11,11-9); Singapore bt Wales 3-0 (Lin Ye bt Chloe Thomas 11-9, 11-7, 11-5; Zhou Yihan bt Carey Charlotte 11-5, 11-4, 11-4; Koh Kai Xin Pearlyn bt Megan Phillips 11-8, 8-11, 7-11 13-11, 11-9).