Captain's example spurs England

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The Independent Online

In the opening NatWest Series match between England and New Zealand at Chester-le-Street it was Kevin Pietersen's switch-hitting that stirred the lawmakers at the MCC into action, while at Edgbaston on Wednesday a refusal to reduce the interval between innings from 30 minutes in a rain affected game had the rulemakers at the ICC scampering around. The cricket played in the series is yet to truly thrill but there has been no shortage of contention.

It would be incorrect to say that today's third encounter will decide the five-match series, which England currently lead 1-0, but it will have a huge influence on it. If England win Paul Collingwood's side cannot be beaten but should they lose, that quality that coaches and captains continually tell us is crucial, momentum, will be firmly with New Zealand.

It is a year since Collingwood took charge of England's one-day side and the overriding feeling is that he is doing a good job. Two of the four series in which he has captained England have been won and his side have walked off victorious in 45 per cent of the games they have played.

Coincidentally, Daniel Vettori's record as New Zealand captain is almost identical. Like Collingwood, he took over in the wake of the 2007 World Cup, and he too has won two of four series, triumphing 44 per cent of the time. Neither leader is likely to lose his job should he fail in the next week, but the confidence gained or lost in a series like this can have significant affects further down the line.

The Champions Trophy, an international 50-over tournament, is scheduled for Pakistan in September, although the players of several countries are questioning whether it is a safe to travel there, and winning an event of such standing is part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's most recent mission statement.

Peter Moores, the England coach, believes that Collingwood is the right man to bring success. "I think Paul has done pretty well from the moment he came in last summer," said Moores. "He came through a tough series against India, which would have been a great learner for everybody. Captaincy is all about a relationship, they get to know him a bit better and he gets to know them. Tactically, the more you do it, the more you see and Paul has always been a deep thinker.

"Colly's greatest skills are at the coal-face, where he has knowledge of playing the game. We can talk tactics in the dressing room but the best people to react are those that are out there, and he is very good at assessing different situations, different players and what the opposition would like or don't like. He then acts accordingly."

Collingwood's qualities have not been lost on Vettori, whose response to questioning about his opposite number suggested that he preferred his style of leadership to that of Michael Vaughan, England's Test captain.

"They are different captains and they do things in their own style," said Vettori. "Collingwood is one of those guys who leads from the front with the bat, the ball and in the field. He always seems involved in the game. Vaughan comes across as a more cerebral type of captain, who can only really dictate with the bat and the way he captains the side.

"Collingwood bowls himself in tough situations; he bowled in the powerplays in the last game. He backs his ability and when you have that in a captain it reverberates throughout the side. I am always drawn to guys who lead with their performance and Collingwood does that pretty well the majority of the time."

The forecast for today's match is not particularly good but, thankfully, the length of the interval between innings will not disadvantage either team. In reaction to Wednesday's farce at Edgbaston the match officials can now reduce the interval down to 10 minutes in rain-affected games.

The possibility of rain will influence the selection of both teams. It would increase the chances of Ryan Sidebottom being given extra time to recover from a back injury. Chris Tremlett could strengthen England's bowling but the shorter the game the greater the chance of Dimitri Mascarenhas playing.

New Zealand will contemplate fielding Jacob Oram solely as a batsman but it is unlikely he will play. Mark Gillespie is expected to make a return, replacing Michael Mason.

Possible Teams: England P D Collingwood (capt), I R Bell, L J Wright, K P Pietersen, R S Bopara, O A Shah, T R Ambrose (wkt), G P Swann, S C J Broad, C T Tremlett, J M Anderson.

New Zealand D L Vettori (capt), J M How, B B McCullum, L R P L Taylor, S B Styris, D R Flynn, G D Elliott, G J Hopkins (wkt), K D Mills, T G Southee, M R Gillespie.