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Taxi!

Posted in England in UAE and Bangladesh

You feel you are taking your life in your hands when you get in a taxi in Dubai. Actually, you are putting your life in the hands of the normally cricket-loving driver.

"We've nearly died 10 times," said Paul Collingwood as we sat in the back seat of rollercoaster 30-minute journey to the cricket ground at Dubai Sport City last week where the captain did his traditional pre-match media session.

Despite a few days in the Dubai sun, the colour seemed to drain from Collingwood's cheeks as the driver weaved in and out of the traffic. Perhaps the Lewis Hamilton wannabe was nervous about having an international cricketer in his back seat.

"I love cricket," another driver told me as we drove back from one training session.

He then recounted tales of games at Sharjah where he, as an India fan, would become embroiled in scuffles with Pakistan supporters.

Paul Collingwood

Collingwood arrived safe and sound for his pre-match presser in Dubai - but only just

Suddenly the melee of cars swerving across Sheikh Zayed Road weren't such an issue. It was the rather psychotic driver.

Aside from the corkscrew journey, it was interesting to listen to Collingwood chat informally about cricket once he had concluded a phone interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.

"One of the most nervous moments I've had in cricket was after I gave 'Bunny' that single in the last over at Centurion," he said, recalling the final moments of the drawn Test in Pretoria when he and Graham Onions salvaged a draw.

"I felt sick as there wasn't anything I could do. I just had to watch. I was trying to calm him down by joking with him. I said 'you're always telling everyone how you have the best bat in the dressing room - now go and use it'.

"Then there was the Oval in 2005. I was lying on my back in the dressing room with my kit on waiting to go into bat, watching the game on TV as if I was a fan.

"Then there was Zimbabwe when I wondered if I would ever play for England again. There have been a few of those."

Another member of the touring party who is excellent company is Bruce French, the former Nottinghamshire and England wicketkeeper.

French flew out to Dubai with England Lions to help glovemen Steve Davies and Craig Kieswetter before linking up with England to help Matt Prior ahead of the tour to Bangladesh.

Chatting ahead on the morning of the first Twenty20 with Pakistan, the book French was cradling seemed an obvious conversation starter.

"It's about 17th century furniture - I'm a collector," he said. "I could bore you to tears about it."

Andy Flower & Bruce French

Bruce French and Andy Flower climbed to the top of a floodlight pylon in East London last December

Fortunately I did not require the tissues and the chat quickly drifted to French's time as a player which began as a 16-year-old who made his debut against Middlesex.

"My first ball in first-class cricket was from Wayne Daniel," he said, chuckling, as he recalled the delivery thudding into the splice. "I thought I did well to make 13."

A keen climber, French hauled himself up one of the tall floodlight pylons when we were in East London in December where England were playing a tour game ahead of the South Africa Test series.

He suggested I could join him up there and we could do an interview 100ft above Buffalo Park. I think I would rather chat about 17th century furniture.

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