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March 13, 2010
Paul Collingwood has seen too much in his long international career, and sailed too close and too often to the margins of selection, to let anything distract from his rare moments in the limelight. And so when, after a year of the hardest but most rewarding cricket of his career, he was presented the opportunity to secure his tenth Test hundred against a toiling and demoralised Bangladeshi attack, he didn't think twice about the opportunity, nor seek to denigrate it afterwards.
"This is a special century for me," said Collingwood. "It is Test cricket and to get ten centuries, it is something I thought I'd never achieve when I first started the game. I've not had a hundred for a little while, so I wanted to make sure I got there and it was a special one for me. But I'm not going to rank it as the best or the worst or even the easiest, because I think that is a little bit unfair."
Being unfair was pretty much the order of the day, however, as Collingwood brutalised a drained attack - first in partnership with Alastair Cook, and then with Ian Bell alongside him - as he galloped down the wicket to spin and pace alike, clunking his bottom-handed drives and pulls to the tune of 10 fours and four sixes. As the declaration approached it was a help-yourself scenario, until on 145, Tamim Iqbal circled beneath one lofted drive too many.
Nevertheless, only 25 England batsmen have previously reached ten Test centuries, and notable names who fell short include Robin Smith, Derek Randall, Ted Dexter and Tony Greig. If nothing else, the achievement confirms - in Collingwood's own eternally modest mind - the impression that he has been giving to the rest of the cricket world over the past 12 months: that he has moved far beyond the mediocrity that can at times afflict English batsmen, and cemented himself for posterity as a player who was greater than the sum of his parts.
"I think that is why it has been a special moment today," he said. "If you get to ten Test centuries then you're, not a great, but it is an achievement. I'm 33 years old, and I think I'm developing all the time as a player and I'm getting more confident. I've had a great 12 months and I want to continue with that.
"It is a proud moment and I'm happy with that," he said. "I'm probably not the best-looking batsman in the middle, and that has gone against me in the past, but my job is a run-getter not a batsman. Sometimes people forget that it is the scoring the runs that is the most important thing, and not how you get them. That is how I've always approached it."
If people have forgotten it in the past, then they've had ample reminders in England's most recent encounters. "Brigadier Block" was the monicker conferred upon Collingwood after a string of heroics against Australia at Cardiff, and South Africa at Centurion and Cape Town - three matches that came down to the very last deliveries of the game, but not before he had grafted a total of 140 runs from 532 balls, in a minute short of 13 hours, to set up those chances for salvation.
"There have been innings along the way that in my own mind have been centuries in the past year but statistically they haven't been put down, so today it was important that I got over the three figures," he said. "I don't want anything to be taken away from our performance and the way we've approached the game. I think we've done some good things in the game and I think Bangladesh are improving all the time."
Despite a defiant 81 not out from Tamim, Bangladesh's 56th defeat in 65 Tests looms large, and depending on how long their first innings extends on Sunday morning, they could yet be subjected to their 34th by an innings. Nevertheless, for Collingwood - who began the tour by joking about the quality of the country's golf courses - there's still the prospect of this good walk being spoiled, and he was determined not to release the pressure until the job is done and dusted.
"We haven't played a lot against Bangladesh in the last couple of years but they are improving and they can be an awkward team to come up against," he said. "What we've seen in the last two days is a very, very flat wicket, so it is easy to say they are not as good as other Test playing nations, but they are getting better and better.
"We'll not be getting complacent because it can be tough over here and we don't want them to get a sniff. They've upset a few sides along the way so we need to make sure that we don't let them upset us. It is an important series for us because we've got some real important cricket coming up at the back end of the year and we want to give ourselves the best chance possible, which means winning as much as possible."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.Feeds: Andrew Miller
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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