On the Front Foot: When the chips were down, this Colly never wobbled

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The Independent Online

Paul Collingwood owed England nothing. When he quit Test cricket last week he was sad but he shed no tears. He was the last man to join the rest of the team for their joyous sit-in on the Sydney square after the splendid Ashes victory in the late afternoon on Friday and he may well have been the last man standing several hours later.

No cricketer since Trevor Bailey can have performed such heroic rearguard actions. They epitomised his Test career and although hehas whacked the leather off the one-day ball – which he will continue to do until at least the World Cup – it is for having his back to the wall and letting no man pass that he will be remembered.

The innings are legion. Here is a sample.

Galle, December 2003. Collingwood's debut, England fighting for a draw on a raging turner. In at 73 for 3, he made 36 from 153 balls and although he was out at 170 for 7 England hung on with a wicket left.

The Oval, September 2005. Brought in for the last match of the Ashes, he had to keep Shane Warne at bay on the last afternoon. In 72 minutes he faced 52 balls and scored 10.

Adelaide, December 2006. Perhaps, on reflection, his worst innings.He scored 22 from 119 balls as England tried to stave off a defeat that had seemed impossible. Even 20 more runs might have saved the day.

Cardiff, July 2009. Without his 74 from 245 balls the Ashes might never have been won. It was his most careful innings and England, nine down, drew and went on to glory.

Centurion, December 2009. A crash of wickets on the last evening meant Collingwood had to save the day, which he did with an unbeaten 26 in nearly three hours.

Cape Town, January 2010. He scored 40 in 188 balls, spanning most of the day, and England managed a draw.

A personal favourite was also made in Australia, in 2006-07. It was not his 206 at Adelaide, the first double hundred by an Englishman in Australia for 70 years. It was his 96 in a failed rearguard action at Brisbane. There were times then when he played vintage drives, looking like Wally Hammond. Collingwood is the cricketers' cricketer.

The way to say goodbye

There was one record that Collingwood was desperate to keep on the final day of the Ashes. Had he been asked to bowl, he might just have refused. On the second day, with the last ball of his fourth over, Collingwood bowled Mike Hussey.

It meant – because he did not bowl again in the match – that he had taken a wicket with his last ball in Test cricket. He also took a wicket with his first ball in first-class cricket (he bowled David Capel at the Riverside in 1996).

The last England bowler to take a wicket with his last ball in Tests was Andrew Caddick, at Sydney in 2003. Before that Martin McCague, in Brisbane, and Alan Igglesden, in Georgetown, did so.

Three-peat feat

Never before had Australia been beaten by an innings three times in one series. It is the fifth time that England have inflicted three such defeats on opponents.

They did so against the fledgling West Indies in 1928 and then, remarkably, did so in 1957, 1958 and 1959 against West Indies, New Zealand and India. Somehow, this trio may taste sweeter.

No cheers for official beer

As England made their way back to the middle, six hours after their wonderful win at the SCG on Friday, for spot of male bonding, one of the security men approached a cameraman on the outfield.

It seemed the team might want to keep the moment private and were asking for filming to stop. But no – they were concerned about the beer they were clutching. It seems it was not the sponsor's brand and they did want to risk being accused of ambush marketing if their non-sponsors' amber nectar showed up on screen.