No Frills

Well, even allowing for their ridiculous team selection (and I'm sure you can guess what I'm referring to), it wasn't a bad day for England. In fact, in the context of the way things have generally been going so far, it was a good one. Especially for one player.

The first time I really paid any attention to Paul Collingwood was during my first - and so far only - visit to the Riverside, in September 2001. Durham were playing Worcestershire and I caught the back end of a Collingwood century. He'd made his ODI debut for England earlier that summer but hadn't achieved much and I wasn't really sure what to make of him. What was clear, however, was how much affection he was held in by the Durham faithful, whose shouts of 'well played Colly' echoed around the broad acres of the new ground.

Of course, I now know a whole lot more about him, as do an increasing number of the world's bowling attacks. And I must hold my hands up and say that as recently as last summer I still had doubts that he was a player of Test quality (with the bat - his peerless fielding is another thing entirely), but those have all gone now. Similarly, before Brisbane I would have joined the ranks of the critics who felt that Pietersen, and not Collingwood, ought to be England's number four.

But then again, what do I know? Steve Waugh always liked the look of him and he, as much as anybody, knows that you don't get any marks for style in Test cricket. With characteristic level-headedness Colly's moved on instantly from his self-destructive dismissal on 96 at the Gabba and made an assured 98* on the first day in Adelaide, which will hopefully be converted into his first Ashes century tomorrow morning. Then he has to go on.

As for the others, neither Strauss nor Cook has properly found his feet yet. This time Strauss looked to be undone by the pitch and Cook by an intense spell of seam bowling from Stuart Clark. Bell was typically sound and was just starting to move up a gear when he skied a return catch to Brett Lee. Pietersen was Pietersen. Hyper-confident, more than a little unorthodox but touched with genius to a greater extent than any England batsman since…well, who? David Gower?

And if we're making historical comparisons, who was the last England player with a similar combination of no-frills technique and ironclad temperament to Collingwood? My money's on David Steele.

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