Comment: No doubts about Collingwood character

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The Independent Online

Regardless of the arguments over whether or not he should even have been playing in this match, there is no argument about the strength of character packed into Paul Collingwood's 5ft 11ins frame.

Just as the Durham all-rounder's Test cricket obituary was being given its final updates, he came up with just the gutsy innings his supporters in the England dressing room had been willing him to produce all through his miserable summer.

Dropped for the second Test at Headingley but recalled here controversially in place of Stuart Broad, Collingwood's dismissal for four in the first innings here meant that he was almost certainly facing his last chance of the summer, and perhaps of his Test career.

After a run of 43 runs from six innings against New Zealand and South Africa, he cannot have felt under greater pressure to come up with a score at any time in his Test career yet delivered a splendid response and has given England a fighting chance of squaring the series.

The six over the top off Paul Harris, the left-arm spinner, with which he reached his sixth Test century was a moment of theatre, in the context, almost as dramatic as Andrew Flintoff's dismissal of Jacques Kallis on Thursday evening.

The England majority in an 18,500 crowd here had been right behind him from the start, greeting his first boundary with ringing applause, and now they roared their support so loudly that Collingwood, removing his helmet, had to pause a moment to compose himself.

It has to be said that the South African bowling has been disappointing this time, at least since tea in an elongated final session that has been a test of their stamina and concentration as much as the batsmen's.

Indeed, of the six England batsmen out today, at least four have given their wickets away, including, regrettably, Kevin Pietersen, who was one blow away from his 14th Test hundred after a typically flamboyant innings, complete with a couple of trademark switch-hits, when the excitement got the better of him and he holed out to mid-on.

Pietersen, whose 115-run partnership with Collingwood came with England looking down the barrel at 104-4 - just 41 ahead -- deserves to be applauded, too, for delivering a score when it mattered.

He will have been the first to hug Collingwood as the players came off the field last night. England, 214 in front, have a chance of winning this match - make no mistake.

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