England are through to face Romania in the knockout rounds of the World Team Championships in the most dramatic of circumstances after the USA team was embroiled in a failed racket test.

England made short work of Saudi Arabia to win their fourth and final group match 3-0 in South Korea today, but that was nothing compared to the controversy which followed in the match between the Americans and Kazakhstan.

A US win would confirm England through in third place in the group, and a 3-2 win for Kazakhstan would see England elevated to second place in a three-way countback behind group winners Germany. Anything else would see the calculators come out.

So when Kirill Gerassimenko of Kazakhstan took the fourth match, and his second victory, to make it 2-2, hopes were raised for England.

The fifth and decisive match was all set to go on court when the referee arrived, explaining that USA’s Jishan Liang had failed a racket test after his victory in the third match.

Amid confusion, the WTT live stream suggested that England would finish in second place. In reality, that was premature as discussions were still going on behind the scenes. It was eventually confirmed that the result of Liang’s match had been reversed, resulting in a 3-1 win for Kazakhstan.

And so to the mathematics and, after another wait, it was confirmed England were through in third place and will play in the round of 24 – a preliminary round with the winners going into the last 16 – tomorrow.

Their opponents are Romania and it will be the third recent meeting – Romania winning at the European Games last summer, when they were up against GB, and England then winning 3-2 at the European Championships last September.

The winners will face top seeds China in the last 16.

Earlier, England again chose to rest Liam Pitchford, and it was Tom Jarvis who led off against Khalid Alshareif (WR 552). He was never behind, closing out a 3-0 (5, 5, 8) victory on his second match point.

It was equally comfortable for Paul Drinkhall against Abdulaziz Bu Shulaybi (WR 462), who at least can say he led, having taken three of the first four points.

Thereafter it was straightforward for Drinkhall, culminating in him taking a run of seven points to seal victory for the loss of five points in each game.

Sam Walker (pictured above) had the highest-ranked opponent to contend with as she lined up against Ali Alkhadrawi (WR 297), and his left-handed opponent made a fast start, winning the first four points and eight of the first nine.

That Alkhadrawi took that first game 11-9, having led 8-1, showed signs that Walker was getting the momentum. He was ahead for most of the second but it needed a timeout, taken at 7-8 down having led 7-4, to make a tweak which set him on the way to winning the game 11-8.

From there it was green lights all the way as a run of seven points broke the back of the third game and the fourth soon followed.

England must now await the result of the match between Kazakhstan and USA today to confirm whether they qualify for the knockout stage and who they will face.


Group 2
England 3 Saudi Arabia 0

Tom Jarvis bt Khalid Alshareif 3-0 (11-5, 11-5, 11-8)
Paul Drinkhall bt Abdulaziz Bu Shulaybi 3-0 (11-5, 11-5, 11-5)
Sam Walker bt Ali Alkhadrawi 3-1 (9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5)