Stokes century fires Durham as Collingwood considers future

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The Independent Online

On a day on which one ruthlessly discarded England all-rounder cast doubt on his future, another was pushing Durham towards the high ground in the clash of the Championship front-runners.

The latter was 19-year-old Ben Stokes, whose elevation to senior international cricket can be only a matter of time. His unbeaten 100 in an unbroken partnership of 185 with 36-year-old Dale Benkenstein put Durham in a position from which they would hope to leap ahead of Lancashire and lead the Division One table.

The former was Paul Collingwood, the World Cup-winning Twenty20 captain whom England replaced with Stuart Broad earlier this month, who says he will consider his future if it turns out his international career is over.

The 35-year-old hopes to return to action when Durham's domestic Twenty20 campaign begins on Thursday, seven weeks after surgery on his left knee. The injury contributed to his poor form over the winter, when he announced his retirement from Test cricket in order to prolong his career in limited-overs internationals but was then dropped during the 50-over World Cup.

He says now that if he cannot force his way back into the England reckoning he will consider his future in county cricket as well.

"I'm determined to come back. I know if I get back to my best form it's going to be very hard for them [England] to leave me out,” Collingwood said. “But you've also got to be realistic. Losing the Twenty20 captaincy shows the game moves on all the time.

“I think there's going to be a lot happening in the next four weeks in terms of how well I do, if I get my form back, if I get back in the England side, as well as how much I enjoy coming back and playing for Durham.

“All these emotions I'm going to have to gauge in the next few months, and at the end of the season make a decision then.”

England's domestic one-day season begins on 25 June with a T20 international against Sri Lanka, followed by a five-match 50-overs series. It gives Collingwood little time to convince the selectors he is ready to add to his record 197 ODIs, although there will be further opportunities against India in September.

Stokes, meanwhile, survived one sharp chance at slip on 84 to complete his third century of the season with his 13th four as Lancashire's bowlers were made to struggle here, impressing watching selector James Whitaker both with some immensely powerful hitting off the back foot but also with the maturity with which he paced his innings compared with some of his more exuberant displays. His first half-century took 94 deliveries, the second 56.

On a day trimmed by 25 overs by rain, the partnership with Benkenstein enabled Durham to recover from an earlier blip when Gordon Muchall and Will Smith were both out in the space of six balls.