x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Colly reality show aces Prison Break

For most of Sunday, the Durham batsman was all that stood between Showtime viewers and the final episode of Prison Break.

Cricket widows, kiss goodbye to your other half and, probably more importantly, the television remote control. It is back on again. You will see them again in about seven weeks' time, by which stage they are likely to be looking haggard and a little frayed. You remember what it was like in 2005. It did not need to be like this. Chances are, had Paul Collingwood not proved as immovable as chewing gum on the soles of your favourite pair of trainers, he would have been begging you to change the channel to Ten Years Younger, or something similar, come Thursday. Anything but the cricket, and those remorseless Australian batsmen.

Alas, now there is hope for the English cricketing couch potato. It is a fate far worse than defeat. Collingwood is the hero or the anti-hero, depending on your standpoint. After saving the opening Test, his captain Andrew Strauss termed him the "tenacious red-head", thereby inferring that Ashes cricket comes a lot easier to those who bear a passing resemblance to Jim Courier. For most of Sunday, the Durham batsman was all that stood between Showtime viewers and the final episode of Prison Break.

The way England's top order batted, they must have been keen on catching the 7pm showing. Kevin Pietersen, who took a cricket bat with him to the crease for no obvious reason, seemed to be in a particular rush. Andrew Flintoff, surprisingly, Graeme Swann, doughtily, and Collingwood, heroically, had other ideas. When it became apparent that even the 9pm episode was in doubt, it seemed a battle of criminal masterminds over who could pull off The Greatest Escape first - Collingwood or Michael Scofield - was in the offing. The England player earned an MBE four years ago for services to Barnacle Batsmanship. Wentworth Miller's alter ego has proved himself adept, too, over the years. But was getting out of Sona really any more taxing than facing Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North on a worn fifth-day pitch at Sophia Gardens?

Perhaps unknowingly, England's supporters even adopted the theme. They do not usually need a second invitation to perform a rendition of the theme tune to 'The Great Escape'. It is one of the Barmy Army's anthems, but even the Barmies did not dare believe England could do it, so precarious was their position for the majority of Sunday. The first strains broke out just after tea on the final evening, when Collingwood's dead-bat rearguard made the impossible seem within grasp.

Then he fell, at 9.03pm (UAE time). Just five channels away, Scofield was still plotting, for the umpteenth time, the best route to safety for wife Tancredi and brother Linc the Sink. And so the question emerged again. Stick with Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson in the vain hope they can marshal 37 minutes of Australia's finest bowlers? Or swap to PB, where Scofield faced the eminently more manageable task of breaking in to Miami Dade Prison for Women, then back out again, giving half of the United States law enforcement staff the slip, all while contending with a headache?

A text arrived to assist with the quandary. "Got to love Monty. Prancing around like Bambi on ice. Someone please end this. It's painful." How could the Sikh of Tweak ever be doubted? Displaying an unrecognisably robust forward defence, Panesar guided the home side back from the brink to square the series at 0-0. Then he eulogised about Collingwood: "It was amazing batting what he did today." Note: change the channel next time for some more realistic dialogue.