England v West Indies, 4th Test, Chester-le-Street, 4th day June 18, 2007

Collingwood shows his leadership credentials

Paul Collingwood: ready for higher honours © Getty Images
Barely 3000 tickets had been sold in advance for the fourth day at the Riverside, but every one of the crowd who'd eventually made it in by mid-afternoon stood to acclaim one of their own. Paul Collingwood struck the first international century by a Durham batsman on home soil and there is every chance that his supporters will soon be able to applaud him as the new England captain as well.

Collingwood played a typically straight bat when asked about the resignation of Michael Vaughan as England's one-day leader - a decision that left him very much the favourite to take up the reins. But was clearly excited at the prospect. "I think when the England captaincy comes up, if I were to be asked, it would be very hard to turn down," he said. "There's obviously going to be a few people who are up for the job so we'll have to wait and see who the selectors feel would be the best made for the job."

The players had only found out about Vaughan's decision at the end of the day's play and Collingwood said it came as a shock. "There's been a load of speculation, but it has to be said he's done a fantastic job in that position but he feels it's time to move on in the best interests of himself and the England team. We've had some disappointing results in the World Cup and generally our one-day form hasn't been great. Maybe he puts it on his shoulders a little too much but from our point he's been a fantastic captain to play for. He's let you go and express yourself and hopefully we can now move on."

As recently as the beginning of the Ashes series Collingwood was still unsure of a starting place in England's Test eleven. If Marcus Trescothick hadn't flown home, it's likely he would have missed out. That situation could arise again later in the summer if Andrew Flintoff regains fitness and a potential overload of batsmen rears its head. However, as if to prove how indispensable Collingwood has become to England's cause he has now overtaken Flintoff in their combined tally of international centuries; nine to eight. Flintoff has wanted to prove himself as a specialist batsman: he'll have to get past Collingwood first.

There remains the possibility that if Collingwood does get the one-day role he could still be left out of the Test side should space dictate. That is the issue with split captains, but it's one England are now going to face again following the Atherton-Hollioake and, briefly, Hussain-Vaughan eras. But Collingwood says the move can work. "I think it's proved in the past, obviously with Australia, they had Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh and it was a great combination. They were two people who went in the same direction and hopefully the same combination can be made in this respect. It's up to both captains, whoever gets the job, to work in the same kind of direction."

Collingwood could hardly have done anything more to cement his Test place than he provided in today's innings. Once again he came to England's rescue when they most needed him, floundering as they were at 165 for 6, their most perilous position of the summer. It is quite apt, too, that Collingwood's innings will be overshadowed by Vaughan's news. It's a common theme. He doesn't seek out the limelight or court the fame.

This match is being played in mining country and Collingwood is at his best when he has to put on his pit helmet and dig England out of trouble. His first Test century came in the heat and dust of Nagpur and his career-best 206 at Adelaide came against an attack of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Shane Warne.

He suffered a blip after that monumental innings, before helping England to their shock CB Series victory - which showed he was the ideal candidate to take the one-day leadership - and in this series has returned to somewhere near his best in the Test arena. His 111 at Lord's was an ugly innings, something Collingwood does well, and today he had to knuckle down after Fidel Edwards had removed Andrew Strauss early in the day.

But after grafting for his first fifty runs, he powered towards his fifth Test century, thanks to some dire bowling from Daren Powell and Marlon Samuels, and celebrated with a punch of the air and a scream of delight. It was a shame more people weren't in the ground to applaud, but those who were gave him a standing ovation, and again as he departed for 128. "It was a dream come true, a very special day," he said. "I had a good feeling about it for some reason, my family were here and a lot of friends so to get three figures and to help England into a strong position felt very special."

And he has clearly already been listening to Vaughan's way of captaincy. "We've spoken about being ruthless and taking the opportunities when they come around and tomorrow is another opportunity for us. It would be another hard-fought win but we believe we have the people in the team to get the wickets."

Collingwood has had to work for everything which has come his way - from his England place to his runs today. He doesn't possess the natural talent of Kevin Pietersen or the immense power of Flintoff but he is a typically tough northern lad. That thick outer shell and his calmness in all situations are ideal qualities for a leader.

Pietersen's name has been touted as a one-day captain - and leadership honours are within his capabilities - but when there are two captains it would be dangerous to have such a brash figure as Pietersen making one half of the pair. It is impossible to say how captaincy affects players before they sample the pressure, but all the signs from Collingwood are that he's made for the role.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo