Collingwood measures Pakistan threat
Paul Collingwood is convinced he and his fellow England batsmen can overcome any problems Pakistan’s impressive attack may pose.
Pakistan levelled their two-Test MCC Spirit of Cricket series against Australia with a three-wicket win at Headingley Carnegie after bowling out Ricky Ponting et al for just 88 in the first innings last week.
Teenager Mohammad Aamer and fellow seamers Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul exploited helpful first-day conditions in Leeds - and with Danish Kaneria providing a high-class spin option, many believe Pakistan have all bases covered with the ball.
Left-arm swing bowler Aamer has already been favourably compared with Pakistan great Wasim Akram - including by the former captain himself - while Asif and Gul offer contrasting varieties of right-arm pace.
Collingwood is back on Test duty for the four-match npower series against Pakistan - starting at Trent Bridge on Thursday - after having to miss the early-season series against Bangladesh because of a shoulder injury.
He respects the Pakistan attack but baulks at the suggestion they may already be the best in the world, hinting they have perhaps been flattered by bowling most recently in weather conducive to seam and swing.
“I don’t want to go overboard on ‘these guys are the best thing since sliced bread’ - or Wasim Akram, or this, that and the other,” said the middle-order lynchpin.
“If we can get through those periods where it can be really tricky, I think we can get on top of them.
“I think they have got a lot of talent. But to say they’re the number one bowling attack in the world I would say was over the mark.
“They have come up in conditions recently where it’s done a fair bit.”
Collingwood believes Pakistan still have a little way to go to earn sensible comparison with the best.
“They’re a good outfit. Certainly, the bowling looks very strong,” he added.
“They have had conditions where it has swung around quite a bit - and obviously, they come at different angles.
“There is a lot for us to think about there. But at the same time, we’ve got a lot of strengths like that ourselves with the way we swing the ball.
“I guess if they [Australia] got those same conditions on the first day [at Headingley] they would have caused a lot of problems.
“Pakistan have got skill, and we’re going to have to be very careful. But I still think we can handle what they’re going to throw at us.”
Collingwood does not buy the idea either that Pakistan may start the forthcoming series with an advantage, having already been in Test action over the past two weeks - while England have rested following one-day internationals against Bangladesh and Australia.
He concedes only that an unexpected victory over a powerhouse team like Australia, under new captain Salman Butt, must have helped the tourists’ morale.
“I guess they’ll be confident from their last game. That’s their only advantage,” he said.
“We’re very used, as cricketers now, to swapping from different forms of the game - so we should be ready for this first Test match.
“Their confidence is going to be sky-high after that game. But we’re a confident team ourselves.
“They’re a team who are up and down in their performances. When they’re hot they’re very, very hot - a hard team to beat, with a lot of skill.
“But when they’re cold you can get on top of them.”
Since England’s triumph over Australia last summer, every Test assignment has been portrayed by some as a stepping stone to their bid to retain the Ashes Down Under next winter.
Collingwood knows a potentially tricky series at home to Pakistan will be no different - and although he reiterates the warning that England must keep their eye on the ball, not the urn, he is sure Andrew Strauss is set to lead a group of players on the top of their game in Australia.
“Everybody in the team is very confident that we can do it this time round,” he said.
“That’s genuine confidence. We’ve had a good 18 months. We’ve had the building blocks, continued to grow and get things right.
“I think we’re ready. It really has come at a time when we can say we’ll be as ready as we can ever be.
“We’ve just got to make sure in these next two months we continue in that same manner.”