x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Collingwood ready for the verbal battle

Engrained into their culture from an early age, Paul Collingwood believes Australians are masters at sledging and pounce as soon as they detect any weakness.

LONDON // Paul Collingwood has warned Australia that attempts to expose any chinks in England's psychological armour during the Ashes series will prove futile even as Cricket Australia warned their players to cut back on sledging. Engrained into their culture from an early age, Collingwood believes Australians are masters at sledging and pounce as soon as they detect any weakness.

Collingwood himself famously came off second best in a verbal clash with Shane Warne in 2007 after deciding to target the spin great on his final Test. But the move backfired spectacularly, as Warne was instrumental in Australia completing a 5-0 series whitewash. Fast forward two and a half years and Collingwood insists England will not succumb to "mental disintegration", as the former Australian captain Steve Waugh labelled sledging as, during their campaign reclaim the Ashes. "Sometimes they can really come hard at you as a team - usually when they sniff a moment where we have to get right on top," said Collingwood.

"Sometimes during the Adelaide Test in 2006 they had gone very quiet like any team when you get on top of them. It depends what the situation is. As a team England can stand up to sledging. If the opportunity comes around, if something needs to be said, then we'll back each other up. "We won't go looking for it, we just want to perform well. "Australia are very good at it. I played a lot of cricket out there as a youngster, initially in 1996, and they come hard at you.

"It's very much a part of their culture but we have some strong characters who can deal with it should it come along." Collingwood and Warne have continued to exchange verbal blows since. The now-retired Warne recently claimed England's World Twenty20 captain lacked imagination. The enmity is genuine and even though Warne may have switched role to be a media pundit, Collingwood knows he is exposed to further criticism over the coming weeks.

"Shane has gone but I'm sure there will be someone else for me," he said. Collingwood made an impressive start to the last Ashes series, hitting 96 in Brisbane and a double century in Adelaide. "That was down to believing in myself. You have to go out there from ball one and give it a good go, especially against Australia," he said. "We all know they are a very good side and you have to get your technique in place.

"But it's the mental side against Australia that's the main thing and that's an area where it's going to be new for quite a lot of the players on both sides. "It's a totally different series altogether with the media hype and atmosphere, so you need to get your head together. "When we played in Australia we didn't get a chance to breathe because the teams you play against are very strong." * PA