For the first time in the history of the world junior men's squash championship, a pair of English and Pakistani players will fight it out in the semi-finals.
James Willstrop will take on Khayal Muhammad while Peter Barker crosses swords with Majid Khan in the 12th edition of the event in Chennai on Sunday.
Pakistan's progress, after a long gap, was on show as Khayal Muhammad and Majid Khan made short work of their respective opponents on way to the last four.
The stage now seems set for Pakistan to regain their hold on the crown after the golden era of Jehangir Khan and Jansher Khan. Only on three earlier occasions has a Pakistani player figured in the semi finals -- in 1998, 1994 and 2000.
In the quarter-finals on Saturday, Khayal Muhammad created an upset, scalping fifth seeded Eric M Galvez of Mexico 9-6, 9-7, 9-7 in 64 minutes, while Majid Khan (fourth seed) scored a straight games win, in 39 minutes, over a fighting Jhie Gough of Australia with a 9-4, 9-2, 9-4 verdict.
Expectedly, Willstrop, the top seed and winner of the British Junior, British Open and European Open, needed only 20
minutes to oust Pakistan's Safeerullah Khan 9-0, 9-1,9-1, while second-seeded Barker was in his element in his 9-2,
9-0, 9-3 victory over unseeded Khalid Atlas.
Going by the performance of the players in the earlier rounds, Willistrop and Barker are likely to fight it out the title.
In the only tough match of the day, between Muhammad and Galvez, the latter looked fitter all through, scoring winners, with Muhammad stranded in the back court. Galvez, who essayed some scintilating returns, was egged on by a sparse crowd as he wiped out a 2-4 deficit to level the score at five-all, before losing the game.
Galvez quickly raced to a 7-0 lead in the second game. However, once the Pakistani got back into the game, the Mexican wilted under pressure. Muhammad, who adopted defensive tactics to great effect, moved up from 1-7 to 7-all. Galvez then made two unforced errors to surrender the initiative.
In the third, Galvez was up 3-0, but was at the receiving end once Muhammad started mixing backhands and forehands to earn points at will. The fact that Galvez could serve only thrice after being 3-2 showed the control Muhammad had onm the game as he progressed to the last four.
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Safeerullah Khan (PAK) 9-0, 9-1, 9-1; Khayal Muhammad (PAK) bt Eric M.Galvez 9-6, 9-7, 9-3; Majid Khan (PAK) bt Jhie Gough (AUS) 9-4, 9-2, 9-4; Peter Barker (ENG) bt Khalid Atlas (PAK) 9-2, 9-0, 9-3.