Liam Pitchford was the star as England caused a sensation on the opening day of the ZEN-NOH ITTF Team World Cup beating hosts Japan 3-1.
Chesterfield ace Pitchford registered two brilliant victories over world No 5 Tomokazu Harimoto and world No 11 Koki Niwa to seal the victory.
Pitchford’s first win saw him repeat his victories over Harimoto in the same event in London last year and also in last year’s World Team Championships, though in contrast to those 3-0 scorelines this one went the distance as Pitchford took it 3-2 (6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8).
That made the score 1-1 after the opening doubles had seen Paul Drinkhall & Tom Jarvis beaten 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 11-7) by Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura.
Drinkhall then recovered from 2-1 down to Yoshimura to win 3-2 (11-2, 4-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-9) and put England in front, and Pitchford brought it home with a superb 3-0 (11-8, 12-10, 11-5) victory over Niwa.
Japan recovered in their second match to beat Austria 3-1. England face Austria in the final group match at 1am UK time on Thursday. The top two nations in each group go into the quarter-finals.
The Team World Cup is the test event for next year’s Olympic table tennis competition. The team qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympics takes place in January.