By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter)
England meet Malaysia in today’s semi-finals of the WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship in Nancy, France.
The No.2 seeds England recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over a weakened Netherlands side, who were missing individual junior champion Rowan Damming.
England’s Sam Osborne-Wylde took the first match 11-3, 12-10, 11-3 against Knut Hogervorst, before individual world junior championship runner up Finnlay Withington finished a comfortable tie with an 11-3, 11-2, 11-9 win over Samuel Gerrits.
Afterwards, England coach Josh Taylor said: “A very clinical performance from the boys today, it is exactly what we were after. We are all systems fully firing and meaning business.”
Withington added: “I’m disappointed to not get to play Rowan again. I’ll keep the energy buzzing away for the next few matches.”
Malaysia came through an intense quarter-final tie against hosts France to break home hearts and reach their first Men’s World Junior semi-final in eight years, where they will join the top three seeds Egypt, England and Pakistan.
No.4 seeds Malaysia made a flying start to their match on the glass court with No.5 seeds France, with Ameeshenraj Chandaran dominating space and opponent in a rapid 11-3, 11-4, 11-2 win over Laszlo Godde.
Malaysia appeared to have one foot in the semi-final when their No.1 Joachim Chuah took a one-game lead against French No.1 Brice Nicolas with an 11-5 win, before a furious response from the 18-year-old threatened their strong position.
Nicolas, backed by a noisy crowd at Jarville TSB, fought back aggressively, with the Frenchman forcing errors from Chuah by limiting scoring chances.
This tactic, combined with some inspired shots of his own, paid off and the home crowd sensed the comeback was on when Nicolas took the second game 11-8 and the third 12-10.
Chuah then recovered well himself, with the Malaysian, who like Nicolas possesses impressive speed and movement, pulling level with an 11-8 win in game four.
Both players were clearly feeling the effects of an intense match – and a busy week of squash in the build-up – in the fifth game, with both making mistakes when well placed. Eventually, though, Chuah began to pull away and he ended the match with an 11-4 win in the fifth game, with Chuah, his teammates and family running to each other to embrace afterwards.
“I’m feeling ecstatic, really so happy. It’s the first time Malaysia has made it to this stage since 2014 and I’m happy with that,” he said afterwards.
“I want to thank everybody, my teammates, my parents, and coaches who have all been a really big influence on how I played today.
“We’ve all known each other since we were nine years old and we’ve always been at the top of our age groups, so we know each other so well. We train together every day, except for Ameeshenraj, who trains in Bristol, but we text and call a lot. We’re a really close-knit team with a good bond.”
In the other half of the draw, Pakistan overcame India 2-0 to set up a semi-final with top seeds and defending champions Egypt, whom they beat in the 2016 final.
Noor Zaman ensured a strong start for Pakistan as he recorded a 14-12, 11-8, 11-4 win over Krishna Mishra and Hamza Khan seemed to be finishing the job efficiently as he coasted into a 2-0 lead against Arnaay Sareen, only for the Indian to surprise him with 11-1, 11-6 wins to take the match into an unexpected fifth game.
Khan, however, quickly regained his focus and accuracy and eventually put the tie to bed with an 11-5 win in the fifth game.
Pakistan coach Fazal Shah said afterwards: “Our [team relationship] is very good and is like one family. Whenever Pakistan plays India, the world sees the match and there’s pressure on both of the teams, so Alhamdulillah we got the win.
“Our players were under pressure, but they never gave in to the pressure and I thought they both played really well in the match.”
Pakistan’s opponents tomorrow, Egypt, may have been hoping for more time on court ahead of their semi-final after their tie with the USA was cut short by an injury to the USA’s Avi Agarwal in the second match.
Egypt’s Mohamed Zakaria had put the top seeds ahead with a 3-0 win against Tad Carney, before Agarwal suffered a knee injury with the scores at one game apiece in the second match, against Kareem El Torkey.
While Egypt may be disappointed by the manner in which the accolade was achieved, they will take pride in a win that took them to their 15th consecutive semi-final.
The semi-finals begin tomorrow (20 August) at 12:00 (GMT+2) on the glass court at Jarville TSB and will be streamed live and free on the WSF YouTube channel and other streaming partners.. Pakistan take on Egypt in the first match, with England facing Malaysia at 14:00.
Tomorrow also sees the 5-8 playoffs begin, as well as the resumption of the playoffs to determine the final positions of teams beaten earlier in the competition.
Earlier in the day, the USA, India, France and the Netherlands came through the second round to reach the quarter-final stage.
2022 WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship, Nancy, France.
 EGYPT 2-0 [7/9] USA
Mohamed Zakaria bt Tad Carney 3-0: 11-5, 12-10, 11-5 (35m)
Kareem El Torkey bt Avi Agarwal 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 7-4 (Retired) (20m)
 PAKISTAN 2-0  INDIA
Noor Zaman bt Krishna Mishra 3-0: 14-12,11-8,11-4 (32m)
Mohammad Hamza Khan bt Arnaav Sareen 3-2: 11-6, 12-10, 1-11, 6-11 ,11-5 (47m)
 MALAYSIA 2-0  FRANCE
Ameeshenraj Chandaran bt Laszlo Godde 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-2 (34m)
Joachim Chuah bt Brice Nicolas 3-2: 11-5, 8-11,10-12,11-8,11-4 (77m)
 ENGLAND 2-0 [10/12] NETHERLANDS
Sam Osborne-Wylde bt Knut Hogervorst 3-0: 11-3, 12-10, 11-3 (40m)
Finnlay Withington bt Samuel Gerrits 3-0: 11-3, 11-2, 11-9 (15m)
Semi-finals (August 20):
12:00  EGYPT v  PAKISTAN
14:00  ENGLAND v  MALAYSIA
Pictures courtesy of World Squash