by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Bode Abiodun gave Nigeria the ideal start by beating Heming Hu in a match that ebbed a flowed, the Australian giving everything for the cause but it was to be defeat in five games (11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8).
Immediately Australia levelled; Xin Yan, the most laid back player on planet earth, out for an afternoon stroll, accounted for Olajide Omotayo, the 22 year old Nigerian never really able to come to terms with the high skill level of Rip Van Winkle. A four games outcome was the end result (9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8).
Matters level, enter 43 year old Segun Toriola; partnering Olajide Omotayo, the duo accounted for Heming Hu and David Powell in three straight games (11-7, 11-5, 11-7) to give Nigeria the advantage.
A short break and it was back into action for Segun Toriola, he faced Xin Yan and duly recorded a four games win (11-9, 12-14, 11-3, 11-6). However, one wondered if he had made a costly judgement; in the second game he led 12-11, called “Time Out” and promptly lost the next three points. Surely, the escape was a major boost for Xin Yan, it was to prove the exact opposite!
“I arrived two nights ago on the fifth; to play yesterday I was just too jet-lagged. Certainly I’m pleased with the way I played today, Xin Yan doesn’t really think tactics when he plays; there is no questioning his ability, he is very talented. The doubles was important; after not playing well in the singles, Olajide played very well in the doubles.” Segun Toriola
Success for Segun Toriola but missing from the line-up was Quadri Aruna:
“We hope he’ll arrive tomorrow he had a European Champions League match for his club, Sporting Portugal.” Segun Toriola
A hard fought win for Nigeria, matters concluded with a rather less exacting success for England against Northern Ireland; although in the opening contest there was some moments of concern for Liam Pitchford.
He lost the first game against Paul McCreery before winning a close second and then dominating matters (9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-7),
“I was slow starting, not on my game; he played well, he got into the match quickly. In the second I had a lead, I won 11-9 but I didn’t feel I was in trouble. He had nothing to lose. Tonight it was a case of doing the job.” Liam Pitchford
Success for Liam Pitchford, matters concluded with Paul Drinkhall beating Owen Cathcart (11-3, 11-5, 11-6) prior to partnering Sam Walker to doubles success against Paul McCreery and Ashley Robinson (11-6, 11-7, 11-8) to secure a three-nil win.
England now face Nigeria in the semi-finals; the fixture to be played on Monday 9th April, the day the Men’s Team event will be played to a conclusion.