England's Golf Croquet World Team Championship Semi-Final
The semi-final against Egypt stood at 2-4 overnight and we needed at least two points from the three morning matches to keep our chances alive.
Jacob Carr was always going to have a tough time against Ahmed Nasr who has looked the strongest player at the event so far, despite the excellent play from Duncan Dixon of NZ who beat Ahmed in their match. However, Jacob made a very good fight of it and only lost 7-5, 7-5. Ahmed's shooting seems to vary between very good and almost flawless and his play is generally very consistent so he looks a favourite to deliver three points for Egypt in the final.
Will Gee at his best is capable of beating anyone and was up against Ahmed El Mahdi on Court 4, the most testing of the five at JCC. El Mahdi is fundamentally a superb player but has not been in the best of form lately and dropped a match to Joi Elebo of Sweden in the block stage. So we hoped for one of the vital points here. However, El Mahdi upped his game significantly against Will and prevailed by 7-5, 7-4. Part of the problem was some arm strain and Amir Ramsis was quick to advise that Will should try a lighter mallet!
The doubles between James and me and Mohamed Nasr and Anwar Abdelaziz was one that we felt that we would win if we played well and the Egyptian pair were anything like their previous days' form when James and I had beaten both in singles by comfortable margins. In fact, as so often happens with the Egyptians, they emerged the following day playing much better and there followed one of the best doubles matches I have ever been involved in. The errors were few on each side and the first two games were shared 7-6. Game 2 contained a great sequence when, at 4-4, Anwar ran a 5 yard hoop 9 and scored 10 in the same shot. However, we quickly won 11 and 12 and Anwar played K to 3 yards position at 13. James shot from level with 12 but a little east of the 3-4 line. He was very close but just flicked the hoop and ended on the boundary due north of 13. Mohamed sent B to the north boundary and I cleared with R from the south boundary. Anwar now failed to block Y's line to the hoop and James ran it cleanly to square the match. Mohamed now upped his game and long jumps at 1 and 5 plus an in-off at 4 gave Egypt a 5-1 lead. However, we pulled them back to 5-5. In addition to his generally good shooting, Mohamed had played some excellent long-range blocks in the match and he produced another from C3 to cover K in position at 11. I missed 11 from the boundary behind 10 and they led 6-5. We cleared twice in front of 12 but finally missed and Mohamed scored the winning point. There was one occasion during the match when he almost killed his coach! - a high powered attempt to clear R from just outside the jaws of 7 from the south-east only flicked the target, rose in the air, touched the top of the safety netting and looped at 30 mph towards where Khaled and Amir were sitting. Fortunately, Khaled can still move fast when he needs to.
That wrapped up the Test result by 7-2 and there was some talk of the Egyptians not wanting to play any more. In the end all but Ahmed Nasr (who was very tired, it seems) did play and Jacob Carr produced another good display to defeat Anwar 7-2, 6-7, 7-4. Jacob has a great attitude to competing and gives a distinctly active appearance on court and should be very pleased with his overall performance this week. James made a great start against Ahmed El Mahdi and led 6-4 in game 2. He had the first go at 13 but it was angled and stuck and El Mahdi jumped it smoothly from 4 yards to win 7-5, 7-6. James is a very calm competitor and it has been a great pleasure to play doubles with him. Will Gee played Mohamed on Court 5 which is the easiest lawn of the five and makes the game almost a pure shooting and hooping contest. Mohamed continued his doubles form and basically out-shot Will in both games. The score of 7-1, 7-3 exaggerated the difference between the players. My match with Ahmed Nasr never happened because he declined to appear and so the final score was recorded as 9-4. The 9-3 actual scoreline comprises 3-0 in doubles, two of which were close, and 6-3 in singles. Our three singles wins were decisive and two of the losses were closely contested . So there are plenty of positives to take home. Now we need to take care of the USA in a 5 point 3rd/4th play-off (two singles and three doubles).