England set sights on becoming world's best

Paul Collingwood today backed England to become the world’s best Test team without him after announcing he would retire from the longest form of the game at the end of this Ashes series.

England need three wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground tomorrow to complete a 3-1 series victory over Australia and give Collingwood the chance to conclude his 68-Test career on the ultimate high.

England’s highly probable win would be Collingwood’s third successful Ashes campaign but he believes that Andrew Strauss’s team will go from strength to strength in the coming years.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m moving on,” joked Collingwood, who told his team-mates of his decision before play today. “This team can go as far they want to.

“We’re bowling as a unit like the old Australia team used to bowl. It’s very hard to score runs against us and we’re bowling with a lot of skill.

“The batsmen will take a lot of confidence for future series from the way they’ve played here but they can still progress.

“I’m looking forward to watching this team in the future because they can become a very special side. It’s the perfect time for me to go.”

Collingwood will continue to captain the team in Twenty20 cricket and remains an integral member of the side in the 50-over game.

Today, England moved to the brink of their third innings victory of the tour. After reaching 644 — the highest total they have achieved in Australia — to establish a 364-run lead, the tourists reduced Australia to 213 for seven at the close.

The home side are still 151 runs short of making England bat again and it seems that only the weather — some showers are forecast for tomorrow — can stop Strauss’s men completing a 3-1 series triumph.

Australia opener Shane Watson opened the door for England when he was run out after a farcical mix-up with Phillip Hughes, and he has been shocked by England’s quality.

He said: “The way England have played here in all facets has been very impressive. It has surprised me how complete a team they have been, especially with the history of the Ashes and how it’s usually panned out here, with us knowing our conditions so well.

“All their players have stood up throughout the series and it’s unfortunate because the Australia team haven’t done that.

“There’s no doubt we’ve let ourselves down in the way we’ve played but they have played extremely well. They have made the most of all conditions, whether it’s swinging and seaming or reversing and turning. The way they have bowled and batted has been outstanding.”

Matt Prior laid the platform for England with his knock of 118, his first Ashes century, earlier in the day. The wicketkeeper was a member of the side that regained the urn in home conditions in 2009 but he said the success Down Under had been even sweeter.

“This memory will be pretty tricky to beat,” he said.

“At the SCG, final Ashes Test, a hundred and then a few catches. They’re seven down and we’re in a pretty good position to win tomorrow.

“This is better than 2009. It was a great moment but to come here knowing it was 24 years since it was last done and to be so close to a series victory is an absolutely fantastic feeling. To be there with your mates in front of the Barmy Army was brilliant.”

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption tribunal into the three Pakistan players accused of spot-fixing opened today.

Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif are alleged to have accepted payment for bowling no-balls at pre-arranged times in the Fourth Test against England last August.

The trio, who have protested their innocence, face life bans if found guilty but made no comment as they entered the hearing in Qatar’s capital Doha.

Tom Collomosse is the cricket correspondent for The Evening Standard.

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