England arrived in Brisbane yesterday to find a city coping admirably after the flood. Barely a fortnight ago, the place was awash, families were displaced, buildings were engulfed and not far away 14 people died.
It has taken a monumental effort of will and determination for a kind of normal service to be resumed. Vast tracts of southern Queensland suffered in the type of storms not seen for nearly 40 years and the catastrophe has lent a discernible poignancy to the fifth one-day international between England and Australia, which is to be played at the Gabba on Sunday night.
It is just as well then that the series is still alive after England avoided, and did so with some efficiency, going 4-0 down in Adelaide. Three dead rubbers in a seven-match series does not make for compelling sport.
The Queensland floods, for the victims of which the players of both sides have raised money, have doubtless helped Paul Collingwood to come to terms with his plight. Collingwood, a model professional, has hardly been able to buy a run since he arrived in Australia three months ago. The all-rounder has always had a healthy, dogged outlook on poor trots of form. Being in Brisbane where more significant struggles have been taking place only enhanced that.
"We have been winning and that makes it a lot easier," he said. "The older you get the more you keep things in perspective as well. I remember going through some horrible runs of form and you feel as though you have nowhere to turn.
"Of course you get down, this is your job. You feel you are letting your team-mates down. It doesn't only affect you, it affects your family, because there is a lot of pressure on what we do, but the older you get the more you try to keep things in perspective."
There were signs in Adelaide on Wednesday, almost like the appearance of familiar snowdrops of a new spring, that the worst could be over. He made a mere 27 batting in the unaccustomed position of seven but he rediscovered the middle of the bat again.
England are aware that his off-cutters are likely to be a necessary embellishment to their attack in the World Cup next month. But Collingwood is a sixth bowler, not a fifth, and that means his batting must be in reasonable order.
Collingwood has been in this place before, by his own estimation four times in the 10 years since he first played for England. The familiarity might have helped.
He said: "When you're going through it, you think, 'Christ, this is terrible.' But I remember the last time round here in Australia when we lost the Ashes 5-0 and played the one-day series. I remember getting out to Andrew Symonds on Australia Day when I plinked it to mid-off trying to hit over the top. I remember literally sitting in the locker – in the locker – nearly in tears. So there have been plenty of low points along the way."Reuse content