Collingwood revels in Sydney send-off
Paul Collingwood still thinks fairy tales are for other people - but he may have to reconsider after a glorious Ashes finale to his Test career.
Collingwood is the paragon for an England team full of talent but whose whole-hearted effort is the true reason a first outright series victory in Australia for 24 years has become a formality.
There was no argument from Australia about England’s 2010/11 domination, after the fourth day of the final Test at the SCG ended with the hosts - already 2-1 down - headed for an apparently certain innings defeat on 213 for seven, still 151 runs away from making the tourists bat again.
Matt Prior’s near run-a-ball century was the third of an England innings which realised a mammoth 644 all out, their highest total Down Under.
Then a typically collective bowling display, with two wickets each for James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, put Andrew Strauss’ team on the verge of a 3-1 series victory.
There was no further breakthrough after the captain claimed an extra half-hour, but England knew - one way or another - their celebrations had merely encountered a minor delay.
Even Collingwood, ’grandad’ of the team at 34, was in short trousers when England last won a series in Australia in 1986/87.
He announced his impending retirement at the end of this, his 68th Test, before the start of play this morning - and then sat back and watched his younger team-mates grind Australia down yet again.
The middle-order batsman has grafted his way to a career batting average exceeding the benchmark of 40 which marks out the best from the rest.
Although he has not reached those standards this winter - he will finish the series with a paltry 83 runs at under 14 - his career achievements are richly deserved.
“In many ways it’s a sad moment, but I can safely say I’ve made the right decision at the right time,” he said. “This is what I’ve been playing the game of cricket for, to be in a position against Australia in Australia like this.
“It’s going to be the perfect moment to bow out of Test cricket.”
Collingwood was already convinced, before this match started, that the time had come.
“I knew it was probably going to be my last innings,” he added. “I was hoping it was going to be a fairy tale and I’d crack a hundred - but I don’t have fairy tales.”
His poor form over the last six weeks is cause for only minor regret for a cricketer who has helped his country win the Ashes three times.
“I haven’t scored the runs out here, but I can barely take the smile off my face,” he added. “It’s been something I’ve been waiting for a long time.
“The last time we were here four years ago, I actually managed to score runs - and we got beat 5-0 - I much prefer it this way around this time, let me tell you.
“I’m very, very satisfied with the contributions over my Test career. It cannot have been easy to watch for some people at times - but I’ve fought hard and given my all.
“I’ve played the last year just to get into this series ... and to be involved in a great England cricket team like it is, with some special players and some special characters, it’s a very proud place to be.”
Collingwood, who made his first Test appearance at Galle in 2003, has also played 189 one-day internationals and led England to their maiden International Cricket Council global trophy at last year’s World Twenty20.
“In many ways I’ve over-achieved, averaging 40,” he said. “I’ve scrapped it out. I’ve had my ups and downs but I wouldn’t change a thing about how my career has been.”
He has no doubt he is leaving a team capable of reaching that coveted number-one Test ranking.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m moving on!” he said. “Honestly, this team can go as far as they want to. I’m very much looking forward to watching them in the future. They can be a very special side.”