India defeated France 2-1 in a pulsating finish to the semifinal on Saturday in the SDAT-WSF U-21 World Cup squash. In the final on Sunday, India will play Egypt which also won by a 2-1 margin over England.
After Ravi Dixit lost in a long winding match against Lucas Sereme, Dipika Pallikal came on to lend a touch of class and restore parity. She gave no chance to Chloe Mesic.
Everything then hinged on Ramit Tandon against the gritty Geoffrey Demont, the man who brought France the historic win over England the other day. Proving coach Cyrus Poncha's prediction that Ramit is the crisis man and often does well in pressure situations, the young man delivered to bring an explosion of cheers around.
Earlier, England put up a spirited fight to win cheers around even in defeat. That Egypt's star player Nour El Tayeb went down to the consistent and clever Emily Whitlock proved the highlight of this tie.
Not really tested till date, the reigning World junior champion found herself sweating and fretting against a player who found the right places on the front wall and even the nicks to drive home her supremacy.
A stage came when Tayeb even went sprawling and diving to retrieve the ball.
But the bubbly Emily could simply not be stopped.
Though points went neck and neck, Emily grabbed the initiative at the business end to level the scores after Marwan Shorbagy had got past England's best bet, Charles Sharpes.
Charles did impress, particularly his forehand blasts down the line often sent the ball out of reach of Shorbagy. Somewhere down the line, Charles began losing his intent and the prime reason seemed the ‘referee's calls' from the way he kept showing displeasure. The sharpness deserted him and Shorbagy's worry receded.
Finally it was left to Egypt's other promising player Karim Abdel Gawad to seal the tie. A young man with already a bagful of PSA titles to show, Gawad's cool and efficient display wore down Declan James.
The results (semifinals):
Egypt bt England 2-1 (Marwan Hossam El Shorbagy bt Charles Sharpes 11-7, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6; Nour el Tayeb lost to Emily Whitlock 11-8, 12-10, 11-9; Karim Abdel Gawad bt Declan James 11-7, 11-8, 11-9).
India bt France 2-1 (Ravi Dixit lost to Lucas Sereme 6-11, 11-8, 6-11, 7-11; Dipika Pallikal bt Chloe Mesic 11-3, 11-3, 11-5; Ramit Tandon bt Geoffrey Demont 11-5, 6-11, 11-2, 14-12).
Sunday's final: Egypt v India (6 p.m.); Third place: England v France (3.30 p.m.).