Commonwealth TT: Indian women to meet England in semifinals

Manika Batra, India's top-ranked player, eased into a win.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Indian women finished on top in Stage 2 of the 20th Avadh Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships at the Pandit Dindayal Upadhyay Indoor Stadium here today.

Similarly, Singapore women topped Group E and will clash with Wales, who finished behind India in Group F after beating Cyprus 3-0, in the other semifinal. England defeated Sri Lanka to take the No. 2 position in Group E.

So far, the Indian women have had comfortable 3-0 verdicts against all their opponents in the two stages, but Singapore faltered once in stage 2 and had a 3-1 score-line against England. The Indians, playing alongside in court No.2, must have taken note of this as they prepare to meet England in the semifinals.

Victory ensures top position

For the first time in two days, India’s think-tank on the bench tried out both Ankita Das and Divya Deshpande along with the top-ranked Indian Manika Batra against Cyprus. It was a complete success story, like the earlier ones when Mouma Das and Shamini Kumaresan participated. The victory also ensured that India keep their top position intact.

Singapore, in order to try out their full bench strength, must have felt the pinch when England’s Karina Le Fevre defeated Zhang Wanling in the third singles 11-6, 11-5, 11-1.

But with Zhou Yihan and Lin Ye, players with the highest world rankings here, the one rubber loss of Zhang could, at best, be described as a mere aberration.

Indian men excel in team event

In men’s team event, India went through the rituals and blanked out Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka in Group F while Singapore handed out a similar 3-0 drubbing to South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago in Group F. Both India and Singapore have a group match each against Scotland and England which should be mere formalities. After that the group leaders clash in the gold medal showdown, followed by positional matches—the third and fourth placed teams getting bronze medals.

India’s men squad tried out a third mix of Soumajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj and G. Sathiyan in the morning against Northern Ireland, then dropped Sathiyan and brought in Harmeet Desai against Sri Lanka to give the much-needed practice.

Needless to say both blends worked to the advantage of India. Amalraj in the morning dropped a game against Ashley Robinson of Northern Ireland but went steady against Lankan Chameera Ginige, winning in straight games. In comparison, Soumyajit, Sathiyan and Harmeet posted easy wins over their rivals in the two matches.