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Dark days behind Collingwood

NatWest Series
Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood's thirst for runs remains as strong as ever following his return

Paul Collingwood has emerged from one of the toughest spells of his career and is relishing his return to the England ranks for tomorrow's day-night encounter with South Africa.

The 32-year-old Durham all-rounder has suffered a hugely testing 12 months as an England player as he struggled with the demands of the one-day captaincy and the need to deliver in all forms of the game.

Collingwood had also come in for criticism for failing to recall Grant Elliott during the one-day international against New Zealand at the Brit Oval after the batsman was run out following a collision with Ryan Sidebottom, and was later banned for four matches for a slow over-rate.

He was dropped for the second npower Test against South Africa, but returned to hit a determined 135 in the third at Edgbaston.

His luck changed the day after he privately decided to give up the one-day captaincy to concentrate on his own game, when he marched out to the crease to score that defiant hundred - and he is now eager to continue his international career.

"It's amazing how quickly it can turn around, but it's happened like that in the past," Collingwood said.

"In Australia it was that kind of scenario in 2006-2007 and it is amazing when you get that low you think, 'it can't get any worse, let's go at the bowler rather than the other way around'.

"You get into a situation where you think every ball being bowled to you is going to get you out and mentally that is not frame of mind to be in.

"It was probably mentally the worst spell of my career because it's just happened and it's fresh in my mind.

Paul Collingwood

Collingwood admitted his mental state has suffered during a difficult 12 months

"I always remember in Australia I was really low because we went over there with high expectations and to get beat 5-0 was a real low. They rubbed our noses in it over there so that was a real tough time.

"But playing against New Zealand, out of the two series you would say you would expect to score more runs against them and I found it a real battle."

In 10 innings against New Zealand in the six Tests played against them this year, Collingwood averaged just 30, but he is hoping his return to the ranks can help provoke a response in his form and secure his place for next year's bigger challenge in the Ashes series.

"The funny thing is we're always asked to be 100% all of the time and, whether it is sub-conscious or not, we've got a big Ashes series coming up and maybe sub-consciously you try and peak at the right times," he explained.

"But, like any other sport, I guess you've got to peak at the right times. I did all right against South Africa at the end and let's hope I can kick that on now."

Collingwood will bat at number six tomorrow in the first announced change to the side that claimed a convincing 20-run triumph at Headingley Carnegie on Friday evening.

England will again be without left-arm seamer Sidebottom, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after failing to recover from the groin problem which has troubled him in recent weeks.

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