x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Collingwood's rearguard effort thwarts Australia

The batsmen almost single-handley salvages an unlikely draw for England.

Paul Collingwood's battling 74 off 245 runs frustrated the Australians and went a long way to saving the game for England.
Paul Collingwood's battling 74 off 245 runs frustrated the Australians and went a long way to saving the game for England.

Perhaps inspired by the watching Michael Atherton, who produced arguably the greatest rearguard innings against South Africa in 1995, Paul Collingwood almost single-handley salvaged an unlikely draw for England in the first Test yesterday. The redoubtable right-hander may not have played a role in England regaining the urn four years ago - as Shane Warne regularly reminds him - but he ensured he took the starring role yesterday in thwarting the Australians who must have thought victory was a certainty at lunch. If Collingwood had played a more important innings for his country then few could remember it yesterday.

Collingwood seems to have played out his whole international career against a backdrop of adversity and always appears to be a couple of low scores away from sparking a debate, normally led by Warne, his harshest critic, about his place in the side. For the last three summers the Durham man seems to have had to play an innings with his international career supposedly on the line. He did so perhaps most impressively against South Africa last summer when he made a career-saving 135 at Edgbaston. He must surely be among the first names on the teamsheet now, particularly as either side of him are a series of enigmatic strokemakers.

Collingwood will not win any extra points for artistic merit or have sponsors queuing up to sign him to endorse their products but he is the unsung hero of the middle order, the player England can depend on. Even the Barmy Army were singing his name as a tension-filled final day's play drifted into the final session. He has scored runs in Pakistan, India and Australia in the last four years and has now 138 runs under his belt in the opening instalment of this much-hyped series. Collingwood led England's backs-to-the-wall effort yesterday, occupying the crease for 245 deliveries to add to the 141 he faced in the first innings.

He even found an unlikely ally in Graeme Swann, just as Atherton did with Jack Russell in 95. Collingwood, if he needed to after his double hundred in Adelaide in 2006, showed the visitors he has the stomach for the fight and possesses no little skill. The rest of the England batsman, most of whom fell to injudicious shots, watching from the balcony would certainly have learnt a thing or two about crease occupation by watching Collingwood defy this solid if unspectacular Australian attack. As they would the unlikely heroes of Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar. The last-wicket pair survived 69 deliveries before hands were shaken on the draw and Anderson believes England will take confidence out of their battling final-day display. "It is huge for us. To go to Lord's in a couple of days now still level in the series is a massive boost for us," Anderson said. "It was a tricky last couple of overs. We played fantastic today and Colly (Paul Collingwood) was absolutely awesome. I'm just glad to get out of it with a draw."

The Australian captain Ricky Ponting pinpointed Collingwood as the man who had denied the tourists' victory. "He deserves all the credit you can give him, because without him and his innings England would have been in a whole lot of trouble. "We just weren't quite good enough to finish off a great five days." kaffleck@thenational.ae