Table Tennis: England jump over Japan

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The Independent Online
CARL PREAN remained the series' only unbeaten player when he scored his fourth win in two nights to help England to a 4-2 victory over Japan at St Austell yesterday. That put the hosts two up in the four-match tour following a 5-1 success at Andover the night before, writes James Leigh.

It also suggested once more that the national champion is recovering from his loss of confidence and match practice. His performances yesterday in doing the double both over Koji Matsushita and later his younger twin brother, Yuji Matsushita, were professional. One of them, the 21-13, 21-16 success against Yuji, was achieved under the pressure of needing to win to ensure England's victory on the night, with the knowledge that a draw here for an improving Japanese team might perhaps turn the series.

All four visiting players performed better than in the opening match, with the 18- year-old Kinjiro Nakamura testing Matthew Syed with some potent attacks and taking the Oxford University student the full distance in the opener, and with the 21-year-old Yoji Morimoto winning twice. He beat Alan Cooke 21-16, 21-19 to level the scores at 1-1 and later overwhelmed Alex Perry 21-14 21-9 to make the score 3-2.

However Cooke outplayed Nakamura with some brilliant counter-hitting and Prean always looked secure. His reading of backspin and float were so perceptive that he sometimes forced Koji Matsushita - fruitlessly - into relinquishing his defensive style, and against Yuji his ability to serve tightly and hit accurately down the lines broke up his opponent's penholder attack.