England expected – and England badminton duly delivered, qualifying for the Euro Mixed Team Championships proper next February with minimum fuss after a thoroughly professional set of displays in Milton Keynes.
The English went into a weekend of qualification fixtures against Italy, Hungary and Belgium as red hot favourites to top Group A and, amid cautionary coaching notes against complacency from within the camp, they lived up to that billing perfectly.
To mark the achievement there was muted celebration – no rousing team huddle, just a reserved hand shake between coach and players. The Adcocks returning home to ‘stew and dumplings’ that Gabby had put on the slow burner before heading to play.
This was no champagne occasion – the real challenge comes in Denmark next February. Instead, on home soil the job was done with a series of mature, efficient performances full of pride in playing for shirt and, significantly, devoid of shock or injury worries for a full strength suite of players who have come off a grueling 12 month schedule on the World Tour.
Today’s 4-1 win in the qualification shootout against a tough Belgium line up backed up a dominant 5-0 win over Italy and a 4-1 defeat of Hungary in which Abigail Holden’s three end defeat saw one of England’s best fighting performances across the weekend.
Belgium, on paper, offered the most testing threat of the three; the experienced Lianne Tan leading the team out at the National Badminton Centre. Maxime Moreels the man most likely to challenge Rajiv Ouseph’s fitness and resolve.
As it turned out it was the World Tour experience of Tan in beating Chloe Birch in the day’s best match that kept Belgium in the tie albeit when they were already two down.
England had opened with a quickfire Adcocks win on their first appearance of the weekend before Rajiv Ouseph doubled the lead. Ouseph was forced to save game point in end one against Moreels but ultimately England’s number one found his stride to win 22-20, 21-12.
With Birch missing out to Tan, the baton was passed to Ben Lane and Sean Vendy who, following up on their dismantling of Hungary last night, dominated 21-16 21-9 to secure qualification.
Often considered the enigmatic crowdpleasers in the squad, Lane and Vendy have been every inch the professionals this weekend and were worthy match winners.
The crowdpleasing mantra instead went to Birch and Jenny Moore who, like their male counterparts put on a dominant display to win the women's doubles event and put extra gloss on a 4-1 scoreline.
It all means England will now join six other group winners and reigning champions Denmark in February 2019 to play for the Mixed Team title.
Photo credit and copyright: Action Photography | Alan Spink