Day 4: Collingwood's class salvages England's sense of self-belief

Australia 602-9 dec & 202-1 dec England 157 & 293-5

England arrived at the Ashes yesterday. The seven-stone weaklings who for the opening 10 sessions of the first Test had sand kicked in their faces suddenly strode out at the Gabba like Atlas the Titan.

If the transformation on the fourth day was astonishing - especially after Australia had initially turned up at the office and conducted business as usual - it was the more exciting because of the unlikely quarter from which it was engineered.

Paul Collingwood is the least celebrated of England's cricketers whose MBE for services rendered in the Ashes campaign last year (one match, 17 runs) is generally considered to be the result of somebody at Buck House having a laugh. While he was an automatic choice for this tour his elevation to the No 4 place in the batting order raised eyebrows.

For a couple of hours yesterday he bore comparison with all the illustrious predecessors who had occupied this most glamorous of positions. As he unfurled cheeky leg-side punched shots and crisp off-drives he could have been a cross between Denis Compton and Wally Hammond. His innings of 96 really was that good. It spoke for him and it yelled for England.

Nor was that all. Collingwood had to overcome the adversity that beset him early in the innings. Having come in at 36 for 2, with England in pursuit of a gigantic and hypothetical 648, he seemed certain to become part of the same old story told day after day at this match. He was nervous and edgy and could have been out at any moment. On one, he almost was when he drove limply to short cover, where Justin Langer could not hold on to a low, fading half chance.

Then it still seemed only a matter of time. But Collingwood put on 153 runs for the fourth wicket with Kevin Pietersen to imbue England with a purpose which had been absent without honour on the first three days of a series which was seriously threatening to live down to its billing. The contest between Pietersen and Shane Warne was compelling, and Pietersen shaded it. Australia, whose captain, Ricky Ponting, was off the field all day with a muscle strain in the back, at last had opponents who had turned up.

Warne had been a peripheral figure in the Test until now but suddenly, as expected, he was its most important influence. Two early wickets - Alastair Cook and Ian Bell both bamboozled - might have brought what was left of the English walls tumbling down yet again. But Pietersen did as Pietersen does and Warne was not best pleased.

England finished still 354 runs adrift of Australia, which meant the mountain they had to climb had changed from Everest to Mont Blanc proportions. Not all was well, however, and the manner of the dismissals of the captain, Andrew Flintoff, and the man who is effectively his vice-captain, Andrew Strauss was pretty disheartening.

Strauss hooked down to long leg when a delivery from Stuart Clark grew on him more than he would have wished.

Flintoff attempted to pull Shane Warne against the spin and was caught at long on well inside the boundary. In a desperate one-day runs chase in the World Cup final these shots might have been excusable, even understandable; here on this day, with a match and honour to be salvaged, they were the height of folly.

It is much too early to start promulgating the theory that the captaincy is affecting Flintoff, but it can be safely proposed that this was not a terribly good start in resisting it. Since Strauss is his deputy this does not augur well. Can they both be feeling the expectation of repeating their feats of last year? The pity is that both look in sound form.

Collingwood may rue forever the four runs that eluded him. Ashes centuries do not come along every day. For some reason he decided that he would advance down the pitch to Warne and try to acquire the runs at a stroke.

It was not quite total madness. He had used his feet delightfully against the great leg-spinner for long enough and had indeed hoisted him for two sixes. But this was not the moment. Warne saw him coming, Collingwood missed the ball by a mile, which was also about the distance it turned, and Adam Gilchrist did the rest.

"I got a bit excited knowing I am only one shot away from a hundred," Collingwood said. "I got done in the flight a bit, he tossed it up and I missed it. Enough said." He has some previous. In Lahore last winter he was on 96 when he tried to hook for four.

Then, as a fringe player, it seemed possible that he might never make a Test century, but he responded with 134 not out at Nagpur later in the winter. The probability is that he is always destined to spend innings after innings rebuffing those who would question his credentials. But his toughness is not in doubt.

The runs that he and Pietersen scored were crucial but so was the fashion in which they were assembled. They did as England did when they won the Ashes: they took the attack to Australia. Collingwood's innings lasted 155 balls, which was electrifying in the context of the match and the start he had. There were 12 fours in addition to the sixes and, but for the difference in size and deportment of the two players, it could have been Pietersen.

For long enough Pietersen, too, struggled but still he refused to be hemmed in. He overcame his poor timing and eventually, as ever, used his long arms as levers to swat the ball.

Hope then where there was none. Not least after Australia had batted for five cheeky overs in the morning to allow Justin Langer to reach his 23rd Test century

By lunch England were 43 for 2 and staring down both barrels at a four-day defeat. Collingwood altered all that. It was tempting to ask him the location of the telephone box he changed in at lunch.

Brisbane Scoreboard

Fourth day of five; Australia won toss

Australia - First Innings

602 for 9 declared (*R T Ponting 196; *A Flintoff 4-99)

England - First Innings

157 (I R Bell 50; G D McGrath 6-50)

Australia - Second innings

(Overnight: 181 for 1)

J L Langer not out 100

199 min, 146 balls, 10 fours, 1 five

M L Hayden run out

(Anderson-Jones TV replay) 37

67 min, 41 balls, 6 fours

*R T Ponting not out 60

131 min, 85 balls, 4 fours

Extras (b0, lb4, w0, nb1, pens0) 5

Total (for 1 dec, 199 min, 45.1 overs) 202

Fall: 1-68 (Hayden).

Did not bat: D R Martyn, M E K Hussey, M J Clarke, +A C Gilchrist, S K Warne, B Lee, S R Clark, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Hoggard 11-2-43-0 (4-1-8-0, 1-0-9-0, 1-0-8-0, 2-0-6-0, 3-1-12-0); Anderson 9-1-54-0 (4-1-30-0, 5-0-24-0); Flintoff 5-2-11-0 (nb1) (one spell); Harmison 12.1-1-54-0 (7-1-24-0, 3-0-21-0, 2.1-0-9-0); Giles 5-0-22-0, Pietersen 3-0-14-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Third day: Tea: 33-0 (Langer 7, Hayden 25) 7 overs. 50: 39 min, 9.3 overs. 100: 108 min, 24.1 overs. 150: 151 min, 34.1 overs. Close: 181-1 (Langer 88, Ponting 51) 40 overs. Fourth day: 200: 197 min, 44.5 overs. Declaration at 11.23am.

Langer 50: 110 min, 85 balls, 5 fours, 1 five. 100: 199 min, 146 balls, 10 fours, 1 five. Ponting 50: 104 min, 65 balls, 3 fours.

England - Second innings

A J Strauss c sub (R A Broad) b Clark 11

52 min, 31 balls, 1 four

A N Cook c Hussey b Warne 43

129 min, 94 balls, 4 fours

I R Bell lbw b Warne 0

11 min, 4 balls

P D Collingwood st Gilchrist b Warne 96

216 min, 155 balls, 13 fours, 2 sixes

K P Pietersen not out 92

226 min, 152 balls, 14 fours

*A Flintoff c Langer b Warne 16

37 min, 26 balls, 4 fours

ÝG O Jones not out 12

36 min, 27 balls, 1 four

Extras (b 8, lb 5, w 1, nb 9, pens 0) 23

Total (for 5, 356 min, 80 overs) 293

Fall: 1-29 (Strauss), 2-36 (Bell), 3-91 (Cook), 4-244 (Collingwood), 5-271 (Flintoff).

To bat: A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.

Bowling: Lee 17-0-81-0 (nb5) (5-0-22-0, 8-0-37-0, 4-0-22-0); McGrath 12-2-30-0 (nb3) (3-1-5-0, 5-0-10-0, 4-1-15-0); Clark 19-5-56-1 (1-0-1-0, 9-3-27-1, 6-1-23-0, 3-1-5-0); Warne 31-7-108-4 (nb1, w1) (13-4-32-2, 18-3-76-2); Hussey 1-0-5-0.

Progress: Fourth day: Lunch: 43-2 (Cook 25, Collingwood 3) 19 overs. 50: 96 min, 21 overs. 100: 144 min, 32.4 overs. 150: 205 min, 45.2 overs. Tea: 150-3 (Collingwood 56, Pietersen 25) 46 overs. 200: 245 min, 55.5 overs. 250: 286 min, 64.1 overs.

Collingwood 50: 121 min, 86 balls, 7 fours, 1 six. Pietersen 50: 113 min, 81 balls, 10 fours.

Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and S A Bucknor (WI).

TV replay umpire: P D Parker (Aus).

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).

How They Rated on Day Four

ENGLAND

PAUL COLLINGWOOD: Looked a novice early on, but he and England were transformed later. Maybe the crucial innings of the series. 9

KEVIN PIETERSEN: Belligerent as ever, he bats invariably as if he has a point to prove. He often proves it. 8

ANDREW STRAUSS: The hook shot which led to his dismissal was as naïve as it was foolish and it could have led to disaster. 3

AUSTRALIA

JUSTIN LANGER: Fighting for his place as he has done so often and his innings was fluent and important for him and his side. 8

SHANE WARNE: Not that he was ever away, but he had been a forgotten figure here. Until they let him bowl again. Lost on points to Pietersen, however. 7

BRETT LEE: High on pace but struggling to find rhythm and movement.

Ball of the Day

* The Shane Warne slider that had Ian Bell leg before for a four-ball duck reminded everybody at the Gabba that the great man is here and won't be going away.

Shot of the Day

* Paul Collingwood is hardly elegance personified in the V but one off-drive for four off Glenn McGrath was a beautifully cut diamond.

Moment of the Day

* Justin Langer reaching his 23rd Test hundred. He is a man under permanent pressure, yet he permanently gets runs. Australia batted on for his century.

Debate of the Day

* Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne are great mates but you would never notice it on the pitch. Warne tried everything, Pietersen plundered.

Stephen Brenkley

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