World team defeat hard to stomach for Yorkshire pair

JAMES Willstrop admitted he endured a difficult few hours after England’s bid for World Team Championship glory ended in agonising – and at times controversial – fashion against Egypt at the weekend.

There really was nothing to choose between the top two seeds, England ranked top despite Egypt arriving in the German town of Paderborn as the defending champions.

England cruised into Saturday’s final by defeating Australia in their semi-final, while Egypt edged into the organisers’ hoped-for finale after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over third seeds France.

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World No 1 Nick Matthew went down in three games - 11-7, 11-9, 14-12 - to his closest rival on the individual circuit Ramy Ashour in the opening match, with a number of points being disputed, particularly in the third game when the Sheffield-born player was convinced he had made it 2-1 overall only for the points to be overruled.

Peter Barker then levelled the match with an 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 victory over Hisham Mohamed Ashour to leave Willstrop facing former world No 1 Karim Darwish in front of the lively 1,200-strong crowd.

But despite halving the deficit after going two games down to a player he had not lost to since 2006, the 27-year-old world No 4 from Leeds eventually succumbed to an 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4 defeat causing scenes of delight as the Egyptian team and supporters dashed on court to celebrate.

The defeat was hard to take for the English team who had been impressive all week in their march to the final.

“It’s not been a particularly easy day,” said Willstrop from his German hotel room on Sunday.

“It was very hard to take, especially after all the effort that we as a team have put in but, after a while, you realise you just have to move on – you have to deal with losses and disappointments like this in sport.

“In two of the matches in the final, it was the world’s top four players playing – so we always knew it was going to be tough, we were never over-confident - historically they are a strong squash nation.

“To be honest, I wasn’t happy with my game in the final, and you might find that Nick says the same about his match, but, in my case, I also have to give credit to Karim as he was better than me on the day.”

“He played a lot better than me - he deserved it,” said Matthew after his thrilling match with Ashour, who also beat him in the final of the Australian Open in Canberra earlier in the month.

“I wasn’t playing my best squash. But if I’d won that third game I think I could have gone on to win the match.”

In the third place play-off, Australia defeated France 2-1.

Willstrop, Matthew, Barker and team-mate Daryl Selby will all be in action next at the British Grand Prix, which starts in Manchester on September 19.

Last year saw Willstrop was beaten by then world No 1 Ashour in the final.