England set for a testing night vs Rest of the World. A full-strength England will take on a Rest of the World team in the eagerly-anticipated Ab Initio Squash International in Surrey on Friday – with the event being showcased live across the globe and featuring a number of exciting elements to capture the Test match feel.
England will field a world-class line-up consisting of Nick Matthew, the three-time world champion, James Willstrop, Daryl Selby and Laura Massaro, the 2013 women's world champion, on the all-glass show court at St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club, Weybridge.
The mixed quartet will take on Egypt’s Mohamed Elshorbagy, New Zealander Paul Coll, Australia’s Cameron Pilley and Hollie Naughton of Canada.
This sold out and free to watch event will be broadcast by BBC Sport, live on their website and on smart connected TVs. Fans will also be able to watch via the BBC Sport downloadable app.
Squash will also be showcased for the first time in 360 Virtual Reality, with viewers able to watch the action unfold on YouTube using mobile devices with or without VR Headsets such as google cardboard or Oculus gear VR.
The first match starts at 6pm (GMT) and will be preceded by entertainment from renowned opera singer Alexander Wall.
Danny Lee, event promoter and head coach at St George’s Hill, said: “I am delighted England are using this as a proper international. To have seven athletes who will also be at the ommonwealth Games is a big scoop for us as a club.”
The four singles’ matches will be played over three games, with every point counting towards the overall team score. Bonus points will also be secured for games and matches won.
Nev Appleton (director of MOOV TV), who is producing the event, said: “I'm really looking forward to the evening, especially seeing how the event unfolds. We will have about 12 cameras on the night, most of which are robotic and also a new custom-built camera for the back wall.
“We'll also feed live scores to screens around the venue so as this unique, 'every point counts' format unfolds both players and spectators can share the excitement. We are also running a trial
broadcast in VR 360 live on YouTube. This will consist of two 4K 360-degree cameras with augmented scoring and replays - and will be a first for squash."
The England team includes three former world No 1’s in Matthew, Willstrop and Massaro, England women’s No 1. For Matthew, Willstrop and Selby, the evening will also be a key warm-up ahead of next week’s WSF Men’s World Team Championship in Marseille.
Matthew, who retires at the end of the season, said: “This is the perfect preparation to play world-class players right before the world teams. It also gives us the perfect excuse to get the team together a couple of days earlier than what we would normally do.
“We are under no illusions as to the difficulty of our task in becoming world champions and we will go to France as well prepared and ready to represent the shirt as well as we always do.”
The Rest of the World team features an in-form Elshorbagy, the Bristol-based former world No 1 who has won four out of five titles this season, including the $100,000 Channel VAS Championships at St George's Hill last month. Coll and Pilley, meanwhile, will both be major rivals to England’s hopes at next April’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Organisers will trial an innovative referee system on the night, with a former player – Ireland’s Steve Richardson – working alongside a top official and consulting on decisions.
Lee hopes that the initiative will spark interest with retiring players in the future. “There is currently a lack of new referees coming through of a sufficient level,” he said.
Schedule (November 24, starts 6pm GMT, 7am NZT)
Matches can be watched here