England’s Olympic qualification campaign suffered a setback at the World Team Championships in Busan this morning as they were beaten 3-2 by the USA.

England are targeting a quarter-final place to seal qualification for Paris 2024 but, while those hopes are still very much alive and in their own hands, defeat to the Americans is a blow.

Their next Group 2 opponent is Germany, with the match at 8am UK time on Monday. Watch live on TTE.TV. The match will be available on demand after the live stream has finished.

Against the USA, it was a sensational performance by Nikhil Kumar (WR 379) which won it for the States.

The left-hander put them ahead with a 3-1 win over Liam Pitchford, winning a tight first game 13-11 and adding the second. Pitchford reduced the arrears and the England No 1 led the fourth 4-1 but his opponent won seven of the next eight points to take control of the game and the match.

It was 2-0 to the Americans as Jishan Liang (WR 149) inflicted a similar 3-1 scoreline on Paul Drinkhall – the pattern of the match and the game scorelines markedly similar to the first match, though it might have been different had Drinkhall been able to convert the first game from 10-7 up.

Tom Jarvis put England back in it as he won 3-1 against Sid Naresh (WR 189), though he did have to save a game point at 10-9 down in the fourth, with super forehand winner, a feat he repeated two points later to take the match and put England on the board.

Pitchford saw off Liang in three, not that it was straightforward as he saved one game point in the first before taking it 12-10 at the end of a superb rally, and then saved another en route to winning the second 14-12.

Liang was yellow-carded for being late back to the table at the start of the third, and Pitchford never let him get into the game as he closed it out to make it 2-2 overall.

When Drinkhall took the first 11-7 against Kumar, it began to look as if England were going to dodge the bullet, but his opponent hit back to take the next two.

Drinkhall was yellow-carded at the end of the second, hitting a towel-bin and throwing his bat on the table.

Drinkhall tok his timeout at 6-4 down in the fourth and it worked as he won the next four points and lost only one more in taking the game – and so it went down to a one-game shootout for the overall win.

It was tense, as you would expect, as Drinkhall led early but then had to close a two-point deficit on two occasions.

The second of those made it 9-9. Kumar was the first to bring up a match point and took it first time with a wonderful backhand winner, sparking a mini ‘court invasion’ from a delighted colleague.

On Saturday, England started their campaign with a 3-2 win over Kazakhstan, despite a fine individual performance by opponent Kirill Gerassimenko.

The world No 40 beat both Drinkhall and Pitchford in a deciding game, but England’s top two won their other matches and Jarvis was also on the board.

The first match saw Gerassimenko up against Drinkhall and it was a to-and-fro match which both men led before the Kazakhstan athlete took the decider 11-4.

Pitchford was relatively untroubled by Aidos Kenzhigulov (WR 289), though he was extended to a fourth when his opponent took the third 13-11, saving match points at 9-10 and 10-11.

Jarvis was up against Alan Kurmangaliyev (WR 212) and held his young opponent, the world No 13 Junior, at arm’s length to win the crucial third match in three.

Paul Drinkhall completes victory against Kazakhstan

Pitchford’s match against Gerassimenko followed an almost identical course to the opening match, the game victories falling the same way as Pitchford led, trailed, levelled and was beaten 11-4 in the decider.

Drinkhall lost the first game to Kenzhigulov, but what could have turned into a crisis was swiftly turned around and, once Drinkhall had won the key third game 12-10, he ran away with the fourth to seal England’s victory.

In the other matches so far in Group 2, Kazakhstan started with a 3-0 victory over Saudi Arabia on Friday, while Germany defeated the USA on Friday and then Saudi Arabia on Saturday by the same scoreline, all the matches in all ties being decided 3-0.

On Sunday, Gerassimenko again won both his matches for Kazakhstan against Germany, but Germany won 3-2 overall.


Group 2
England 3 Kazakhstan 2

Kirill Gerassimenko bt Paul Drinkhall 3-2 (7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 6-11, 11-4)
Liam Pitchford bt Aidos Kenzhigulov 3-1 (11-6, 11-6, 11-13, 11-8)
Tom Jarvis bt Alan Kurmangaliyev 3-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-5)
Gerassimenko by Pitchford 3-2 (7-11, 11-6, 14-12, 9-11, 11-4)
Drinkhall bt Kenzhigulov 3-1 (7-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-2)

USA 3 England 2
Nikhil Kumar bt Liam Pitchford 3-1 (13-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-7)
Jishan Liang bt Paul Drinkhall 3-1 (12-10, 11-7, 3-11, 11-9)
Tom Jarvis bt Sid Naresh 3-1 (11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 12-10)
Pitchford bt Liang 3-0 (12-10, 14-12, 11-7)
Kumar bt Drinkhall 3-2 (7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9)