Squash: Parke and England's easy ride

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND joined an elite group here yesterday when they joined Australia and Pakistan as the only countries to retain the world title by beating Canada 3-0. They were billed as favourites and listed as the top seeds, but England's was not the formality the score suggests as there was a revenge element involved; Canada upset England at the group stage.

On top of that, there were players in the England team with points to prove. The English No 1, Simon Parke, was first on court and he was merciless in exploiting the discomfort of the winner of the recent US Open and world No 3 Jonathan Power. Hampered by back spasms all week, Power was severely restricted in his movement and in obvious pain. Parke, who has had his own battle to restore physical fitness, cleverly played on Power's particular problem and won the first game 9-1. That was the only point he conceded, racing through the remainder of the match 9-0, 9-0 in only 22 minutes.

Parke was a crucial member of England's winning team in 1995 but one month later he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. "It was like going from the highest to the lowest point," he said.

Yesterday's victory ended a difficult two-year period for the Nottingham- based world No 5 by putting him back on the high that the illness had deprived him of. "We thought that Chris [Walker] would win, so winning my match was a great start for us. Victory two years ago was great and this one feels the same - we're the world champions."

Chris Walker missed the final in 1995. This year he was appointed captain and it is fitting that the 30-year-old should e involved in the decisive match. The jaunty Walker easily swept aside the challenge of the world No 143 Gary Waite before Del Harris completed the victory by beating Graham Ryding.

"We've paced ourselves all week for a big push at the knock out stage and we beat Australia 3-0 in the semi-final so it has worked," Walker said. "I watched the guys win in 1995 so this year it really is a great feeling."

Canada's hopes depended heavily on the powers of Power. With him debilitated their chance of upsetting England disappeared, rendering the final a rather lifeless contest, but Walker would have none of that as his team had endured their own difficulties during the week. "There is no anti- climax in winning the world title," Walker said. "We thought all week that we had the strongest squad and today just proved it. We've had problems with Peter [Marshall] this week."

Marshall recently returned from chronic fatigue syndrome and reached the World Open semi-final last week. He struggled in the group defeat by Canada and did not play again. "I'm a little concerned because of the illness," Marshall said, "but two weeks of squash is hard. It just proves how strong we are."

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