By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter)
Defending champions Egypt came through a nail-biting contest with No.3 seeds Pakistan as they reached their ninth consecutive WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship final, where they will play No.2 seeds England who recorded a 2-1 win over Malaysia.
Pakistan were the last team to deny Egypt the trophy when they ended a run of three consecutive Egyptian titles in the 2016 final, but started slowly today as Egypt No.1 Kareem El Torkey took the opening game against Pakistan No.1 Hamza Khan 11-8.
Khan appeared to have rallied in the second game as he took a 5-1 lead, only for El Torkey to hit back to take the game 11-8, before the Egyptian gave his country a 1-0 lead with an 11-5 win in the third.
Pakistan responded brilliantly in the second match through 18-year-old Noor Zaman.
Zaman, who was seeded No.2 in the individuals competition but suffered a round of 16 exit, played some of his best squash of the tournament in a physical match against Mohammed Nasser.
The powerful Pakistani dominated the first game, which he won 11-3, with Nasser then striking back with an 11-7 win in game two.
Zaman, however, looked untroubled and played attacking shots with brilliant accuracy to take the third game 11-3 and then level the tie with an 11-6 win in game four.
In the decisive final game it came down to 14-year-old Mohamed Zakaria of Egypt, who captured headlines with an unexpected run to the semi-finals of the individuals, and 18-year-old Muhammad Ashab Irfan of Pakistan.
When Zakaria took the first game 11-6 it appeared that Egypt were progressing comfortably, only for Irfan to fight back brilliantly to level with a 11-7 win in game two.
The third game was a crucial one and at 9-6 up, Irfan was well set to push Pakistan into the lead for the first time in the tie.
Zakaria, though, responded brilliantly, with the attack-minded Egyptian dragging himself level at 9-9.
Irfan had further game balls at 10-9 and 12-11, but Zakaria saved both and then regained the lead with a 13-11 win.
Buoyed by this win, Zakaria started the fourth game well and took a 5-2 lead, before a determined Irfan forced his way back into the game and pulled level at 6-6 and again at 7-7.
Zakaria moved onto match ball after a contentious “not up” decision against the Pakistani, and the 14-year-old was able to convert at the first attempt, with Irfan smashing Zakaria’s serve into the tin.
Afterwards, Zakaria said: “Going into this match, I knew I had a battle ahead. At 1-1 and going in as the decider, I love these matches! When I entered I said ‘I’m not letting this match go any way except for me winning it’ and thanks to my team-mates for cheering me on. We’re going to win this tomorrow!”
Egypt will face England today after the No.2 seeds safely navigated their way past Malaysia.
England, who cruised past a weakened Netherlands side in the quarter-finals, made an ideal start through men’s individuals silver medallist Finnlay Withington.
Withington looked at ease against Malaysia No.1 Joachim Chuah, who had come through a brutal five-game match in yesterday’s quarter-final win against France. The Englishman found the target time and again with his free-wheeling attacking brand of squash delivering a comfortable 11-8, 11-1, 11-9 win to hand England a one-match lead.
Any suspicions that this would be a procession for England were quickly put to bed in the second match by Ameeshenraj Chandaran. The 18-year-old looked in strong form as he won Malaysia’s first game of the tie with an 11-9 victory in game one against Sam Osborne-Wylde.
Osborne-Wylde came back well in the second game to level with a 12-10 win, before Chandaran wiped out England’s advantage with 11-9, 11-4 wins.
With the tie in the balance at 1-1, both Jonah Bryant of England and Harith Danial Jefri of Malaysia knew they could be heroes by winning the decisive match.
Bryant, however, quickly moved into the ascendancy and strolled into a one game lead with an 11-3 win.
Bryant continued to dominate, with the 17-year-old looking far more settled on court as he quickly wrapped up the match and tie with two more 11-3 wins.
“He wasn’t easy to put away. The scoreline really doesn’t reflect how tight the rallies were,” Bryant said.
“It’s great to get through, but the job’s not done yet. We’re going to do as much as we can tonight and tomorrow morning to prepare. I watched the whole Egypt v Pakistan match and I hope they’ve taken a couple of chunks out of each other!”
Today’s final starts at 14:00 (GMT+2). The match will be streamed live and free on the WSF YouTube Channel, the Olympic Channel and other broadcasting partners.
Elsewhere, the finalists of the placings playoffs were decided, with India and the Netherlands set to compete for fifth place after they beat the USA and hosts France.
2022 WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship, Nancy, France.
 EGYPT 2-1  PAKISTAN
Kareem El Torkey bt Mohammad Hamza Khan 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (33 min)
Mohammed Nasser lost to Noor Zaman 1-3: 3-11, 11-7, 3-11, 6-11 (40 min)
Mohamed Zakaria bt Muhammad Ashab Irfan 3-1: 11-6, 7-11, 13-11, 11-8 (58 min)
 ENGLAND 2-1  MALAYSIA
Finnlay Withington bt Joachim Chuah 3-0: 11-8, 11-1, 11-9 (25 min)
Sam Osborne-Wylde lost to Ameeshenraj Chandaran 1-3: 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 4-11 (64 min)
Jonah Bryant bt Harith Danial Jefri 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-3 (28 min)
14:00  EGYPT v  ENGLAND
Pictures courtesy of WSF