ISLAMABAD - Veteran Farhan Mehboob kept Pakistan hopes alive of retaining the 18th Asian Senior Squash Team Championship as green shirts came from behind to beat archrivals India 2-1 in the semifinals played in Chinese Taipei on Saturday.

As was feared, after registering unconvincing victories even against the minnows of squash, Pakistan would struggle a great deal when it mattered the most and as per expectations, they got off to the worst possible start in the semifinals. Despite Indians were without their star players as Mahesh and Saurav Ghosal, they were given a superb start by Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, who was up against presently Pakistan No 1 squash player Farhan Zaman, but Sandhu never showed any sign of weakness and played with big heart. Sandhu settled down well in the first game and took it 11-4.

After losing the first game, Zaman finally got the momentum and won the second game 11-8 and third 11-7. As witnessed on numerous occasions, when on a high, Zaman all of a sudden gets relaxed and allows his opponents to dictate terms. Exactly that happened again, which provided Sandhu opportunity to win the fourth game 12-10. Zaman had a number of opportunities to shut the Sandhu’s doors, but he failed to take advantage, which cost him and the country dearly at the end, as Sandhu won the fifth game 11-6, thus gave India 1-0 lead and upper hand in the match.

It was left on Tayyab Aslam to handle highly-rated Indian Kush Kumar and keep Pakistan alive in the contest. Tayyab won the royal battle 3-2 in more than an hour of highly-enthralling squash. Tayyab lost the first game 7-11, but bounced back in style to win the second game 13-11. After playing so well in the second game, Tayyab allowed Kush to play freely, who played well and won the third game 11-8. Pakistan was almost out of the championship, as Kush had three match points, when he was leading 10-7, but Tayyab somehow managed to safe all the match points and then went on to take the fourth game 13-11. After playing so well, Kush was completely outclassed by Tayyab in the fifth game, when started playing aggressive game and utilized all his skills to outpace Kush to win the fifth game 11-3 to square things.

It was all left on highly-experienced Farhan Mehboob to steady Pakistan ship, just like he did two years back, when he beat Malaysian in the final to give Pakistan title. Mehboob lived up to the expectations and played superbly against Velavan Kumar. Mehboob showed the young Indian, why he is still rated as the most blessed player of Pakistan, as he won the first game 11-3 and took the second 11-5. Although he lost the third game 5-11, yet he bounced back in style to clinch the fourth game 11-5 to register an impressive victory for him as well for the country against the archrivals. Soon after Mehboob’s victory, wild celebrations broke into Pakistan’s camp, as the holders enetred the final. Now number 2 seeds Pakistan will face top seeds Hong Kong in the final today (Sunday).

Hong Kong beat Japan 2-0 in the second semifinal. Odds are heavily against Pakistan as Hong Kong team has world’s two top players while Pakistan’s hopes rests on the shoulders of Farhan Mehboob, but for that both Farhan Zaman and Tayyab Aslam has also to play their role to help Pakistan lift the coveted trophy.