Time running out for Collingwood in England's new order

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The Independent Online

Spare A thought for Paul Collingwood. Since Michael Vaughan twisted his right knee batting in the nets at Lord's, this likeable Durham batsman has been caught up in a chain of events that will ultimately have a detrimental effect on his England career.

Spare A thought for Paul Collingwood. Since Michael Vaughan twisted his right knee batting in the nets at Lord's, this likeable Durham batsman has been caught up in a chain of events that will ultimately have a detrimental effect on his England career.

Had any batsman other than an opener injured himself in the build-up to the first Test against New Zealand, Collingwood would have played. But Vaughan's misfortune gave Andrew Strauss the opportunity to show his class. This in turn put pressure on Nasser Hussain, who after his triumphal second innings retired and forced Vaughan to contemplate moving down the order to number four.

"It is tough when things like this happen, but you have to keep going," Collingwood said yesterday as England prepared for tomorrow's second Test. "Hopefully, there will be an opportunity for me in this Test and if I do get a chance, it would be great to do the same as Strauss.

"It is frustrating when you keep turning up with the rest of the squad and find out you are not playing but all you can do is keep going back to county cricket and staying in the best form you can. You have to make sure that when your chance comes around, you are ready to take it."

Collingwood, who also bowls seamers, will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if he plays, but with skies around Headingley remaining grey and wet and suiting the seamers, he should gain selection ahead of Ashley Giles, the left-arm spinner.

But James Anderson will not be in contention for a place. The Lancashire seamer was forced to withdraw from England's 13-man squad after arriving in Leeds with a bruised left heel. Anderson, who had been unlikely to play, will be replaced by Kent's Martin Saggers.

Anderson and Collingwood are both valuable members of England's one-day team but, despite having central contracts, have yet to establish themselves as Test cricketers.

Of the two, Collingwood needs to impress the selectors most. The 28-year-old made an encouraging start to his Test career in Sri Lanka but, with only two caps, there is a real danger that he will soon be overtaken by younger and more talented batsmen.

If Collingwood is not to be replaced by the likes of Robert Key, who has been in superb form for Kent, he needs to gain selection and score heavily in the two remaining Tests against the Kiwis. England's selectors are backing Collingwood, but it is doubtful they can ignore Key's demands for a recall much longer. Collingwood has many qualities but Key is the better batsman and it is he who should be preparing with the England squad in Leeds.

Despite watching Strauss leap ahead of him and Vaughan fill the spot he would have hoped to make his own, Collingwood, in typically unselfish manner, refused to feel sorry for himself.

"It's a funny situation," he said, "one I did not feel would happen. But it has and you have to take your hat off to Straussy. He is a great player and, after scoring over 190 runs, he deserves to keep his spot. I am not upset about it - things like this happen in cricket."

Vaughan's decision to bat at four has not been greeted with universal approval. There are many who think that Marcus Trescothick should slip down the order and others, including Matthew Hoggard, his England team-mate, who feel that Strauss should learn his trade in the middle order.

"If anybody moves down, it should be Strauss," Hoggard said. "Vaughan has shown his quality at the top of the order. He is used to opening and knows how to play here. It's his home ground. Vaughan and Trescothick have had some nice partnerships over the years and it would be nice to see them open at Headingley."

The batting order is an important issue, but it will not be the only thing on Vaughan's mind. The England captain's wife, Nichola, is expecting their first child over the weekend.

In the New Zealand camp, Jacob Oram is unlikely to play after being advised not to bowlbecause of a side strain which he picked up at Lord's. Should the Kiwis not want to play the exciting all-rounder as a specialist batsman, Kyle Mills will make his Test debut.

The Black Caps will also be keeping an eye on Craig McMillan, who broke the little finger of his left hand again during the tourists' recent game against Leicestershire. The batsman is set to have a pain-killing injection in the finger today.

New Zealand travelled to England with just 14 players and these injuries have encouraged the visitors to call up Mathew Sinclair, who has been playing league cricket in Cleethorpes and was considered unlucky to miss out on being selected for this tour in the first place.

The 28-year-old has a pretty good Test record, scoring double-centuries and averaging 38.55 in his 21 Tests.

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