Worksop’s Sam Walker played a crucial role as England earned another medal on the world stage at the Team World Cup in London.
Walker was part of the squad which won bronze at the World Team Championships in Malaysia in 2016, and they repeated the feat at the Copper Box Arena, being knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual winners China.
England started with a 3-1 group-stage defeat to Japan, despite Liam Pitchford’s 3-0 (13-11, 11-8, 11-5) victory over 14-year-old wonderkid Tomokazu Harimoto, the world No 11. That made it 1-1 after Walker and Paul Drinkhall had lost 3-2 (11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7) to Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda.
But defeats for Drinkhall and Pitchford to Ueda and Niwa respectively meant England needed to beat Egypt to qualify for the quarter-finals. They did just that, Walker and Drinkhall beating Ahmed Saleh and El-Sayed Lashin 3-1 (11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9).
Pitchford then beat Mohamed El-Beiali but Drinkhall lost to Saleh, leaving Walker to power England through with a 3-0 (11-6, 11-8, 11-7) triumph over El-Beiali.
The quarter-final draw pitted England against Brazil and again Walker and Drinkhall beat Eric Jouti & Gustavo Tsuboi 3-2 (5-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5). Pitchford beat Hugo Calderano and Jouti, sandwiching a defeat for Drinkhall against Tsuboi, seeing England into a semi-final against China.
It was a chastening experience for Walker, 22, as he and Drinkhall lost the doubles 3-0 (11-2, 11-7, 11-4) to Ma Long & Xu Xin. After Pitchford had pushed world No 2 Fan Zhendong in a 3-1 (8-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9) scoreline, Walker was demolished 3-0 (11-5, 11-1, 11-2) by world and Olympic champion Ma Long.