England created more than a record when they beat China in a series for the first time on the tour which ended at Maidenhead last night, writes James Leigh.
Though China were 3-2 winners last night, giving England series victory by 4-2, the winning lead England achieved at Salisbury on Monday helped encourage the hope that the past decade's decline can be reversed and that new achievements are round the corner.
Although their opponents were a tiny squad made up mostly of juniors, it was, like others before it, a squad bursting with players on the verge of a world-class breakthrough. To beat them at all was an achievement; for England to do so with a bevy of youngsters was an important foundation.
"We've had our critics, but now there's some light at the end of the tunnel. I think I might be going out on a high," said the England manager, Ciro Ciniglio, who leaves the job after the Atlanta Olympics next year. His successor is the former European and Commonwealth champion, Steve Baddeley, who is returning home after a five-year absence.
The most established players are Joanne Wright and Julie Bradbury, potential Olympic medal winners, Chris Hunt and Simon Archer, the European men's doubles champions who could be dangerous in Atlanta, and Nick Ponting, last year's All England mixed doubles champion in partnership with Wright. But the most promising are Sarah Hardaker, Nathan Robertson, Gail Emms, James Anderson, Ian Pearson, Neil Cottrill and John Quinn - all names for the future.Reuse content