Monday 15 December 2008

Alan would approve

The victorious Egyptian teamAlan Hansen would surely nod sagely in appreciation of the 'strength in depth' of Egyptian men's squash.

But after their recent win in the World Team Championships, I reckon he might extend his favourite epithet to the women too.

Second seeds and in their second consecutive final, but did anyone really see it coming? And what about my premature suggestion that the Netherlands might be right up there? ...

The future is obviously not quite orange, as the Egyptian trio despensed with the Dutch girls with little difficulty in the quarter-finals.

I suggested in that previous article that when Natalie Grinham becomes eligible to represent the Netherlands that they might challenge for this title - it will be interesting to see whether her sister joins her one day.

Well done to the Aussie girls, btw, who put up a decent fight against Malaysia and beat the Dutch in a minor-placings play-off. The Australian team is weakened since the Grinham sisters departed, and Donna Urquhart, Kasey Brown and Lisa Camilleri vindicated their selection (is there any team game that Australia aren't any good at?).

England pretty much sailed through to the final - my tip for dark horses New Zealand offering little resistance in the semis. So much for another of my predictions!

The big unknown was always going to be Malaysia and Egypt after they were drawn together. Malaysia's world number one Nicol David hasn't lost in this event since 2004, and she won her second rubber against Egyptian number one Omneya Abdel Kawy after Engy Kheirallah had taken the first,

The decider saw Raneem El Weleily take on Malaysian Delia Arnold. The 19-year-old from Alexandria took the first two games before dropping the third, only to come back to win 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9.

'A packed crowd of partisan fans

Alison Waters v Engy Kheirallah in the finalAccording to the WSF press release the final was played in front of "a packed crowd of partisan fans" - given the apparently thrilling climax to the last rubber, it must have been a crazy atmosphere.

How wonderful if must be to watch live professional squash in Egypt right now. Video footage rarely gives a good impression of the atmosphere at a live squash game, and for now we'll just have to read about it.

If only some of that atmosphere translated to events over here in Britain, which are often marked by a distinctly British reserve (for what women's tournaments there are over here - more on that another time ...)

Anyway, the result came down to the last few points of the last rubber. Engy Kheirallah was pitted against Alison Waters, and after two games all, the last game went right down to the last, as the press release describes:

"(But) the 27-year-old Egyptian won the point on a stroke, before moving on to her own match-ball at 11-10 - which she won when a ball off the back wall from Waters failed to reach the front wall."

The Egyptian took the match - and won the title for her country - 4-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-0, 12-10. Apparently there was "immediate pandemonium around the glistening court as Egyptians jumped up and down, screaming with joy". More of that over here please!

It would be great to find out how many spectators attended the event, as would it be to find how many watched it on TV. As I noted in the previous article on the event, the tournament was available to watch for free on 247.TV.

Anyone with any numbers - or any reports on the quality of the streaming footage - please send then on ...

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