'It's fair to say Cardiff was on my mind' says Collingwood

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The Independent Online

This time, Paul Collingwood stayed around to complete the job. This time, there were no lapses in concentration, no forcing shots which might prove calamitous. He was there at the end as England somehow survived, nine wickets down, and drew the first Test against South Africa.

At Cardiff, five months ago, Collingwood's prolonged resistance against Australia was finally broken much to his self-disgust. If he was still blaming himself, he atoned fully yesterday.

"It's fair to say Cardiff was in the back of my mind most of the time," said Collingwood. "It's very satisfying to get the draw and it was very nice to be there at the end because it's certainly better than watching from the changing rooms."

Collingwood's rearguard action yesterday dawned dramatically. England were 172 for four when he came to the wicket and he immediately, quietly dropped anchor. But then came the second new ball. The damage was immediate and, for England, it seemed terminal. "I guess that sort of situation is more suited to the way I play," said Collingwood. "It's satisfying knowing you have done it for the team but I'd rather not have those situations at all."

He paid tribute to his Durham colleague Graham Onions, who kept out the final over to deny South Africa victory after five England wickets fell for 13 runs in 11 overs of mayhem. "I knew he could hold a bat and he was very calm and relaxed," said Collingwood. "He played straight and when he got his bat on one that scuttled I knew he could do it. He's been bragging that he's got the best bat in the dressing room and I shouted down the pitch a time or two to remember that."

The blade looked as impassable as Collingwood's had over almost three hours of deadpan vigilance, and the joyful embrace at the end was entirely understandable.

Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, said: "I was delighted with the way we kept going and although I'm a bit frustrated not to have taken the last wicket, I can't be disappointed."

The match was a wonderful tribute to Test cricket, as Andrew Strauss, England's captain, observed. "Every time Test cricket gets an advertisement like that is a good thing at the moment and it was great to see how the crowd was enthralled by what was unfolding. Hopefully there will be more games like that to come in the series." If there are, the nerves may not be up to it.