Oh, what to do about the Colly wobbles

December 24, 2010

CRICKET-ASHES/With the fourth test steaming up on us like Santa’s sleigh with an inebriated Rudolf at the helm, time is running out for England to decide on what to do about a problem like Paul Collingwood.

Is it me or does “Brigadier Block” always seem more out of form than in form?

In his last 12 innings since his century against Bangladesh in Chittagong, “Colly” (who still averages a respectable 41.14 in test cricket) has managed to reach double figures in a test innings on only four occasions, passing 50 just once in that time against Pakistan in Nottingham in the summer.

Marcus North (2 centuries, 2 half-centuries in his last 12 innings) was dropped from the Australian team for lesser crimes against cricket.

However, of Collingwood’s four double-figured scores in that period, he racked up 42 in Adelaide in the second and 11 in Perth last week. Two double-figured scores in two test matches, is the Durham blocker hitting a rich vein of form?

The messages coming out the England camp, as always, are that they are backing their man and not only will he keep his place in the team, but also retain his position at number five in the batting order, despite Ian Bell’s prolific form.

Bell averages 71.15 since his recall during the 2009 Ashes series, and has a lowest score of 53 on this current tour of Australia.

So, what is the dilemma? Apart from being England’s best fielder Collingwood, 34, has a habit of digging deep and pulling a performance out of the hat when it looks like he is about to be dropped, but how many more times can England carry the underperforming number 5 batsman?

Collingwood is also employed partly as an all-rounder but his stats look more like a darts player’s three dart average than a test match bowler, with each wicket costing 63.31 runs, and striking every 117.5 balls. And if he’s not scoring runs, apart from his fielding, what value does he add to the team?

Waiting in the wings is Tim Bresnan. A stocky lad but by no means a Flintoff on the field, he will run in with the ball all day for his captain (averages 35.14 with the ball) and is no slouch with the bat (averages 36.54, albeit from five tests). His selection would also relieve some of the stress from England’s four-man attack.

A lot has been made of the panicky signal it might send if England were to make changes, and usually I’d agree, but surely the stats speak for themselves?

If Collingwood does play, I want him to score a double hundred and take five wickets, I just hope for England’s sake they don’t live to regret a missed opportunity to make a honest change.

David Brett, a London-based equities reporter, is considering the Ashes from an England fan’s point of view

PHOTO: England’s Paul Collingwood is seen during a cricket training session ahead of their second Ashes test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

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