England ensured their 40-year tradition of always medalling in the team event since it was added to the Commonwealth Games format was maintained with a brilliant bronze on the Gold Coast.
It is a record that dates back to 1978 and the 2018 team fought back from semi-final disappointment to secure a valiant bronze as the Commonwealth Games mixed team event drew to a close on the Gold Coast.
A 3-0 victory over Singapore, who had missed out to India at the semi-final stage, sealed the deal as the side backed up their silver from four years ago with another chance to step on the podium following the loss to defending champions Malaysia.
Fight proved to be the operative word as Rajiv Ouseph saved four match points in the deciding game of his men’s singles tie – eventually hanging on for a huge win for the team.
That was one of the cornerstone moments of the tie, putting England 2-0 up as Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis went on to wrap up the contest, all after Ellis and Lauren Smith had opened up with a win in the 3-0 success.
“To be honest I was trying not to think about the points – which is obviously hard because the score was so tight,” said Ouseph of his 20-22 21-15 25-23 win over Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew.
“It was quite hard to get back up to speed after yesterday night’s game with not much rest.
“But I just tried to hang in for as long as possible and try and keep him on court for as long as possible so Marcus gets more rest – that was my thinking.
“Credit to him, I have never seen him play before. These young players come out with no fear and for us old guys it is a bit more difficult to keep that level.”
With the individual competition still to come, Ouseph couldn’t play down the importance of victory over the 20-year-old, though he had to work hard to secure it.
Unfortunate to lose a tight first game 22-20, the English No.1 put his foot down to level – at one stage leading by seven points before easing to the 21-15 match leveller.
But it was in the deciding game where the drama really unfolded, battling back from five points down to take the game beyond 21-21.
It was there where Ouseph’s sizeable experience shone through, defending four match points prior to making the most of his one and only match-winning opportunity in the tie.
That allowed England to go 2-0 up instead of being locked at 1-1 as Ellis and Smith teamed up to open the bronze-medal match with another thriller, this time in the mixed doubles.
More than an hour of play was needed for them to prevail over Terry Hee Yong Kai and Crystal Wong Jia Ying, coming from behind to win 16-21 21-19 21-18.
Once again a tight encounter ensued, neither of the pairs ensuring a seismic lead at any point of a game that headed into its deciding throes.
But, despite trailing by two points in the last, it was the English pair who held on for glory, backing up their ever-improving partnership having become YONEX Swiss Open runners-up earlier this year.
“Marcus and I hadn’t played in the main hall, and it was a case of making sure we got a match before the individual competition,” said Smith.
“It has proven to be important because we didn’t start that well or implement the tactics as we would have liked.
“That sets up nicely for the rest of week, we have confidence going forwards. We know we can scrap and we can fight and that is important because it’s the type of hall where it is hard to get it on the floor.
“So if we come out with an attitude to get everything back and fight until the bitter end, that northern grit came out and it was really important.”
It wasn’t long before Ellis was back on court, this time alongside Langridge as the Olympic bronze medallists ensured they’d have the same colour of Commonwealth medals around their neck with the all-important third win.
If the tiredness was present in Ellis he certainly didn’t show it as the English pair needed just 16 minutes to take the first game 21-9.
But Terry and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta fought back to take the second 21-19 as yet another decider came the English team’s way.
Once again it was the English who prevailed in confident fashion, not letting their Singapore opponents lead at any stage before cruising to the 21-13 win to round off the tie – securing debutant Ellis’ first Commonwealth medal in the process.
“It’s physically difficult playing two matches in a tie and it definitely played a little part for me,” he said. “I’ve been fuelling myself with sugar and bananas but I’m just really happy we managed to get through and get the win.
“My first Commonwealth Games at 28, I don’t know if I’ll be at another one hopefully I will.
“I really wanted to not come away empty-handed and I’m really relieved and happy that I’ve managed to help the team get a bronze.
“Obviously we’ve got the individual coming up and two more chances to medal, so it’s certainly something I’m not content with.”
While Langridge added: “Singapore came out today and were unbelievable.
“They were underdogs in every game. The world rankings are irrelevant because there are new partnerships and all sorts.
“They’ve got great players but the way they played today, if it had been very slightly different we could be going the full length to the fifth rubber.
“But thankfully, all of us just managed to do the job.”
Photos: Badminton Photo
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