Courageous Collingwood makes it mission possible

Partners in their prime as Durham's finest is rewarded for tenacity with record stand and the swashbuckling Pietersen puts Warne to the sword
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The Independent Online

Sometimes in life, all things come to him who waits, provided he knows what he is waiting for. Paul Collingwood waited, and waited some more, and though he may not necessarily be a student of President Woodrow Wilson, who coined the phrase, he knew precisely what he wanted.

Yesterday it came. Collingwood scored 206 against Australia on the second day of the Second Test. In the process he shared a record stand for the fourth wicket of 310. The man at the other end was the old showboater himself, Kevin Pietersen, and Collingwood's contribution can be put in context by pointing out that he lost nothing in comparison.

Together the pair continued their mission of dragging England back into this series, which they had started in the second innings at Brisbane. There, they shared 153 and were both out in the nineties. Reunited six days later, they moved inexorably onward and upward. Their stand was unbroken on 108 overnight and they left record after record in their wake. It meant that Andrew Flintoff was able to declare England's innings at 551 for 6. They had scored almost 400 runs more and batted for 100 overs more than they had in their first innings at Brisbane. It was an epic riposte, embodied by Collingwood's innings.

When England embarked for Australia it was widely recognised that a Durham cricketer would be essential in their campaign. Nobody of rational mind estimated that this would be Collingwood and not Stephen Harmison. It is still possible that Harmison will lay waste to Australia's batsmen, but Collingwood has already left an indelible mark on this series.

He was bitterly disappointed (though he avoided showing it) at being out for 96 in Brisbane when enthusiasm overtook him. He made no such mistake this time, swiftly garnering the two he needed for three figures from the second ball of the second over with a smart, trademark clip on the leg side.

What followed was the more surprising for its apparent inevitability. There did not seem a stage in Collingwood's innings when he did not look like converting a single hundred into a double.

The pitch was flat, but there have been flat pitches in Australia before. The world champions were hardly rendered impotent, but they were reduced to defensive tactics which they dressed up as attacking ones. Slips were removed, sweepers were posted early.

To curb the threat of Pietersen, the best spin bowler in the world, Shane Warne, was reduced to bowling round the wicket into the bowler's footmarks. Pietersen kept kicking the ball away, refusing to be lured into an indiscretion which presumably was the attacking aspect of the plan. It was a plan of sorts, but it was one that Warne had unveiled before only against the likes of the Indian swashbucklers Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.

It said much for Pietersen's determination that he never once shed his concentration. Indeed, it meant that Collingwood outscored him in their partnership. Of the 257 balls Pietersen faced in his innings of 158, he failed to score from 174 of them; Collingwood did not score from 276 out of 392.

They never wavered. It seems that England had a significant team meeting two nights before the Test began in which mea culpas were thicker on the ground than at a mass confessional. They promised to do better.

Winning the toss obviously helped, and it might have mattered more to the tourists than to Australia. But it was not all. Collingwood came in at a distinctly unpromising 45 for 2, barely 20 overs into the match.

He is a changed player. A one-day specialist no more. If he still bats within his limitations, he has expanded his limitations. The off-drive has never been a conspicuous shot in his repertoire, but he has learned to play it; with the bottom hand to the fore perhaps, yet not without fluency. His footwork against Warne has become admirable.

England began the day intending to bat through most or all of it. It depended on how many wickets they could keep and how many runs they could score while keeping them. They had received some criticism in the Australian media for their rate of scoring on the first day. Just what they wanted: they were ruffling feathers at last.

The tourists did not lose a wicket in the morning, and before lunch Pietersen had his sixth Test hundred. The partnership went to 300 and Collingwood to 200. Pietersen spent most of the afternoon using his pads.

On the stroke of tea, Collingwood shaped a loose drive at Stuart Clark, Australia's most effective bowler, and edged to the keeper. No Englishman had made a Test double hundred in Australia for 70 years, when Wally Hammond did so for the third time, an unbeaten 231 in Sydney.

There have not been many times in Collingwood's career when it has been possible to mention him in the same breath as Hammond. Until yesterday there had, in truth, been none. No player deserved the elevation more.

After tea, Pietersen, having reached 158 for the third time in his Test career, was, for the third time, out on the score. He pushed to Ricky Ponting at mid-on, dashed for a single and was comfortably run out. There was time for Geraint Jones, somewhat limply, to give Warne his only wicket of the innings, poking a drive to point. Warne had bowled 46.2 overs at the time and had never in his auspicious career waited longer for a wicket.

Flintoff and Ashley Giles dashed for the declaration line. England had nine overs at the end. Flintoff himself shared the new ball with Matthew Hoggard (Harmison becoming perhaps the world's first 90mph first change) and persuaded one to rise steeply at Justin Langer with his sixth ball. Pietersen took a low catch.

England's day again. Maybe not all things had yet come to Collingwood. There are the Ashes to retain yet. But a week ago that was a pipe dream, and yesterday he made it possible.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

SHOT OF THE DAY: Paul Collingwood's lofted drive to long-on off Michael Clarke to reach 200. "Right in my slot."

DELIVERY OF THE DAY: Any of the 50-plus that Shane Warne bowled round the wicket to Kevin Pietersen. Each of them demonstrated that KP had won significant battles when Warne bowled over the wicket.

GAFFE OF THE DAY: Pietersen being run out attempting a sharp single, trying and failing to get past his previous Test best (now three times) of 158.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Pietersen again: "I might have suggested to Shane last year he should go over the wicket, but not now. He was friendly then and he isn't any more."

INCIDENT OF THE DAY: When Justin Langer was out, an English fan on the pavilion steps abused him. If looks could kill...

RECORDS OF THE DAY:

1. Collingwood and Pietersen's partnership of 310 is England's highest for the fourth wicket against Australia, and second best against anyone.

2. It is England's second highest for any wicket in Australia.

3. It is England's highest for any wicket at Adelaide, and second best by any country there.

4. Collingwood's 206 is the highest score by an England player in Adelaide, and third highest by a non-Australian there.

5. Colly is only the third Englishman to make a Test double century in Australia.

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