Soumyajit Ghosh pulled India out of the hole it found itself in against a determined England. The young National champion justified his growing reputation by winning both his matches as India rallied to win 3-2 for a place in the final against Singapore in the Commonwealth table tennis championship here.

The win took much attention away from India’s 2-3 loss to England in the ladies semifinals. In sharp contrast to Ghosh’s uplifting performance, National women’s champion K. Shamini did not put her hand up to play as the leading singles player in the key match.

Her reluctance to play, as seen in the crucial league match against Singapore on Monday, coupled with the fact that she has a nagging back-injury, left coach Bhawani Mukherjee with no choice but to field Madhurika Patkar.

As turned out, Neha Aggarwal’s unbeaten streak in the third singles and the lone victory for Mouma Das did not prove enough. As things stand, the Indian ladies settled for a bronze as England advanced to face Singapore in the final.

The men’s team was expected to cruise past England, which is without seasoned campaigners Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkall. But the script followed an unexpected course.

In for a surprise

India was in for a surprise when England’s leading junior Samuel Walker was fielded in the opening singles against Sharath Kamal. An erratic Sharath’s loss in four games upset India’s plans.

Ghosh helped India draw level by stopping the hugely-experienced Andrew Baggaley but not before facing some intimidating tactics from the 30-year-old. In the third singles, Harmeet Desai started confidently against Daniel Reed but could not sustain the good work.

With India down 1-2, Sharath dealt with the must-win situation in a champion-like manner. He produced a flawless performance to blank Baggaley. Thereafter, Ghosh stayed in control against Walker and won in straight games.

Sharath, who admitted starting badly, hailed Ghosh by saying, “He was in great form and couldn’t have gone wrong on this day.” Coach Kamlesh Mehta was quick to declare, “Ghosh is the hero of the day.”

Ghosh was modest in triumph and praised Sharath and Harmeet Desai. “I was confident against Baggaley since I had beaten him in the last World championship at Dortmund where we won 3-2. Once Sharath won, I was sure of winning the match.”

Meanwhile, the men’s singles draw has pitted third seed Sharath in the same quarter as Commonwealth champion Yang Zi, seeded five. Ninth seed Ghosh runs into top seed Zhan Jian in the pre-quarterfinals.

The results (team championship, semifinals): Men: India beat England 3-2 (Sharath Kamal lost to Samuel Walker 10-12, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11; Soumyajit Ghosh bt Andrew Baggaley 11-7, 11-8, 11-4; Harmeet Desai lost to Daniel Reed 5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 7-11; Sharath bt Baggaley 11-9, 11-7, 11-7; Ghosh bt Walker 11-7, 12-10, 11-6); Singapore bt Scotland 3-1.

Women: England beat India 3-2 (Kelly Sibley bt Mouma Das 11-5, 9-11, 14-12, 6-11, 11-7; Joanna Parker bt Madhurika Patkar 11-5, 11-6, 11-7; Hannah Hicks lost to Neha Aggarwal 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11; Parker lost to Mouma 4-11, 6-11, 3-11; Sibley bt Madhurika 4-11, 11-2, 11-9, 11-6); Singapore bt Malaysia 3-0.

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