Squash: Brave Nicol is arrested by Marshall plan

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PETER MARSHALL, who reached the World Open semi-final and the Super Series final in the past two months, added the recapture of the British national title to his list of triumphs when he won the so-called 'dream' final against Peter Nicol at Welwyn Garden City yesterday, writes Richard Eaton.

The England No 1 beat the Scottish champion 9-6, 9-7, 9-4 but the three games took a remarkable one hour and 43 minutes, and with only a little luck Nicol might have extended the contest to become the longest the championships has known.

Indeed the match was the best seen in the 15-year history of the event, better than the many battles between Phil Kenyon and Gawain Briars, better than the Jonah Barrington-Briars final of 1980, and a contest to live up to its extravagant billing.

There was hardly a negative rally in the match, even though 50-stroke rallies were commonplace and more than 100 strokes occurred from time to time. In the first game Nicol tested Marshall's supposedly suspect shoulder-high volley with lobs while Marshall often pressurised Nicol's backhand.

In the second game the variety of the attacking patterns increased, with Nicol throwing in volleyed changes of direction, sudden drops and clinging drives while Marshall's best attacks came from fierce boasts. 'It was all very heartening - it showed the British are right up there with the best,' Barrington, the former world No 1, said.

Nicol came from 6-2 down to lead 7-6 in the second game and might have progressed further had the ball not then burst. However after three minutes to warm up a new one Nicol made three uncharacteristic errors in a row to go two games down and after that his was always an uphill task.