Paul Collingwood: This is our Olympics, that's what it means

The England batsman on why the Ashes will always be on 'another level'

You tend to go into other series pretty much knowing what is going to happen – if you play well you are going to win, but the Ashes…" begins Paul Collingwood, and then he pauses, as if the roller-coaster of his own experiences against the old foe is careering around his mind. "It brings that extra pressure, extra nervousness. The speculation and intensity is another level. For a lot of players it is a really nerve-racking time. It was always that first day, singing the national anthem, all the build up to it. You are desperate to get into it, get out on the park and get the competitive juices flowing."

Collingwood knows what it is like to win the Ashes and lose them, to have moments of exquisite triumph, moments of utter dejection, the full cricketing gamut; a double hundred in a losing cause, a rearguard action that led to a winning one and even at the end it was a churning mix of emotion – victory accompanied by tears.

"The Ashes," suggests Collingwood, "are like the Olympics – that's what it means to everyone."

Collingwood played the last of his 16 Ashes Tests in Sydney in the fledgling days of 2011, six years after his first. It was the final match of the last series between the sides, in which England earned a first Ashes win in Australia in 24 years and Collingwood had decided it would be his last as an England Test player.

"I was very emotional," he says of that final day when England completed an innings victory. "I was wearing my glasses all the time in the field because there were times when I was in tears. None of the boys knew it – I hadn't told them that I was about to retire. There were times when it was real emotion – this is your last game of Test cricket for England, something I had always wanted to do.

"I remember walking in every single day through the groundsman's entrance and looking up at the cross of St George and just being proud, being proud of having played for my country. There were loads of emotions but knowing you were leaving Australia with the Ashes and having won them convincingly was a great feeling."

Collingwood played his first Ashes Test in the last game of the historic 2005 series, partnering Kevin Pietersen for 72 minutes of his epic innings at The Oval, 72 minutes of Shane Warne rabbiting in his ear. There was even longer in the middle in Cardiff four years later – 344 minutes of a resistance that was improbably completed by Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar. In between those was England's catastrophic whitewash Down Under. That it also included Collingwood's career-best 206, made against Glenn McGrath and Warne, a regular critic of Collingwood's, did little to diminish a chastening experience. "I'm very proud of scoring 200 against Australia [in Adelaide 2006] with the bowling attack they had but that was one of the most mentally tough tours I have ever been on," he recalls. "They really drilled us. They were ruthless. It became very tough."

His varied Ashes experiences, and that tour in particular, have instilled in him a wariness of Australia and an insistence that the current side – no matter its trials and tribulations, from David Warner's bar-room brawl to a whitewash in India – will pose a threat to England, both here and, in particular, back there this winter.

"I find that a ridiculous comparison to make – oh England won out there [in India] and Australia got absolutely annihilated," he says. "It would be silly to write Australia off because of that. It is completely different conditions. In India you rely on spin, you rely on reverse swinging the ball and scoring big runs. Australia's spin-bowling department is not as strong as England's. The way they reverse swing the ball is not as good as England but those two skills will not be tested as much in English conditions. The skills of swinging the ball around with the Dukes ball and bowling fast in good areas will be a skill you need in English conditions, which they have an abundance of.

"They are a dangerous side. Look at that seam-bowling department, they are going to cause a lot of problems. England are a good batting line-up when they are on song but [Australia] have some serious pace and it's not just pace – they swing the ball around as well, and certainly in English conditions they can be a handful. When you have a team that can take 20 wickets they are going to be dangerous.

"It's whether they can score enough runs. But if someone like David Warner, who has a point to prove, comes off, or Michael Clarke has a good series, or Shane Watson – you can go through their team and they are actually a competitive team, especially in conditions where those seam bowlers come into their own. They are going to be dangerous."

When the players trot out of the pavilion at Trent Bridge this morning and line up for the anthems, Collingwood, who is still playing for Durham and beginning a coaching career, will be in front of the TV, as he was when the 2005 series began.

"I miss it, of course I do. When you come out of international cricket you find it hard to replicate the intensity and the adrenalin. It's an amazing environment to be involved in so you miss those times, the big crowds, playing the game. But I love watching England – they have moved on even in the couple of years since I stopped playing Test cricket. I think they are a highly skilful team now. I would love to be involved with England in some way in the future but at the moment it is just great to watch them."

Paul Collingwood is an ambassador for Yorkshire Bank, who are giving away 150 cricket bats via their Giving Bat to You campaign at: www.facebook.com/YorkshireBankCricket

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past