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Spirit wins out as Elliott exacts retribution

Posted in ICC Champions Trophy 2009

Paul Collingwood & Daniel Vettori

Paul Collingwood thanks New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori for his compassion

“The thing I have learned from this game is that the world is round.” So said Graeme Smith after he was refused a runner by Andrew Strauss during South Africa’s defeat by England on Sunday.

Those words sprung to mind after Paul Collingwood was ‘run out’ by Brendon McCullum early in England’s innings in today’s Champions Trophy clash against New Zealand at the Wanderers.

Though there was no doubt that Collingwood was short of his ground - he had trotted off for the obligatory end-of-over chat with Eoin Morgan - confusion reigned over whether the ball was ‘dead’.

With neither Daryl Harper, the umpire at the non-striker’s end, nor Asad Rauf observant enough to keep up with McCullum, the third umpire’s verdict was requested - and ‘OUT’ duly appeared on the big screen to seemingly spell the end for Collingwood.

Yet a lengthy debate amongst the New Zealand players, the batsmen and the umpires followed, during which one's mind wandered back to the incident in a one-day international at the Oval in 2008 when Collingwood, as England captain, refused to recall Grant Elliott after he had been run out following a collision with Ryan Sidebottom.

That hardly won Collingwood any friends in the New Zealand dressing room, and the sight of Ian Butler raising his finger with indecent haste as the Kiwi players considered their options suggested it was prevalent in their thinking. You can be sure Elliott hadn’t forgotten.

The general feeling was that New Zealand would have been within their rights to send Collingwood on his way for 14, which would have left England teeting on 27 for four and even less likely to fashion a respectable total.

But Black Caps skipper Daniel Vettori, who made no attempt to hide his disgust at Collingwood’s hard-nosed attitude at the Oval, refused to allow thoughts of revenge to cloud his judgement.

Grant Elliott

Grant Elliott exacts revenge for the Oval episode with four wickets in New Zealand's four-wicket win

Instead, he withdrew New Zealand’s appeal, received a warm handshake from Collingwood and won immense credit from the sort of fans who still put great store in the ‘spirit of cricket’. The right decision had been made.

Remarkably, it was the third incident in five days which has seen that spirit called into question, all of which have involved England.

Last Friday Strauss recalled Angelo Mathews after he was run out following a collision with Graham Onions - shades of Elliott at the Oval - and then came the more ruthless decision to deny Smith a runner when he had cramp.

South Africans may argue otherwise, but it could be argued that neither decision affected the outcome of the contest, much as the Elliott episode did not prevent New Zealand winning the Oval ODI, albeit by one wicket and off the last ball of the match.

Mathews was out in the next over as England went on to beat Sri Lanka with ease, and South Africa were always underdogs to overhaul England’s 323 when Smith’s request was turned down. Collingwood added just 26 to his score before perishing this evening - to ensure any lingering fall-out will be limited.

The irony that he eventually fell to Elliott did not go unnoticed, and the man considered to have been wronged at the Brit Oval went on to rip the heart out of the England batting with four wickets in 21 balls as they were bowled out for just 146.

He finished with career-best ODI figures of 4-31 from eight overs of lethal medium pace (it is not often you will read that phrase), and left the ground where he made his first-class debut with a deserved match award.

It all worked out rather well in the end. New Zealand secured the win which secured their passage into the last four. England, by virtue of losing so heavily, avoided returning to the Wanderers - and the prospect of batting on a pitch which resembled a river bed - for their semi-final on Friday. Elliott exacted retribution on England by perfectly legitimate means. And Vettori showed himself to be a leader of the highest rank.

Maybe Smith was on to something.

New Zealand & Paul Collingwood

A concerned Collingwood awaits his fate before Vettori withdraws New Zealand's run-out appeal