England v New Zealand, Group E, Durban

Collingwood's errors come home to roost

This was a day when Paul Collingwood's mistakes caught up with him. Despite the brave face he put on the situation at the post-match press conference, there will be many questions asked about his judgment

Hugh Chevallier at Kingsmead

September 18, 2007

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This was a day when Paul Collingwood's mistakes caught up with him. Despite the brave face he put on the situation at the post-match press conference, there will be many questions asked about his judgment since England arrived in South Africa for this tournament.

Yes, England do retain a mathematical chance of joining New Zealand in the semi-finals, but their inability to win games that they have (if only briefly) dominated, means they do not deserve to progress. Nor is it remotely likely, anyway. Beaten in their last three games by Australia, South Africa and now New Zealand, England are as good as out.

The errors came on and off the field. First, on the field. The startling mistake - the word came to dominate the uncomfortable press briefing at Kingsmead - was that Collingwood forgot to give his stand-out bowler, Andrew Flintoff, a fourth over.

With four overs remaining, Collingwood knew he was confused about how many had been bowled - and checked with the umpire, Steve Taufel. But, in an insight into the pressures that lie heavily on the captain in this form of the game, the answer didn't sink in, despite the fact that the scoreboard would have provided the answer.

The plan was to give Flintoff the 18th and 20th overs, but Collingwood brought himself on for the 18th, believing it to be the 17th. As it happened, he conceded just six runs, but it left Flintoff, who bowled the penultimate over, with figures of 3-0-11-1.

Why no other senior player stepped in to query the decision is unanswered. The lapse had caused the press-box to scrutinise Flintoff's troublesome left ankle, believing that Collingwood had stepped in to lighten his load. But there were other questionable moments: Kevin Pietersen appeared to step in to make fielding changes with Collingwood, at long-off, uninvolved.

Much of the conference was taken up with another Collingwood "mistake". In the early hours of Saturday morning - the Super Eight game v South Africa was on Sunday - he was spotted by the English tabloid newspaper, The Sun, in a Cape Town lap-dancing bar. (In case its readers were unsure quite what happens at lap-dancing clubs, the paper provided a helpful, well-illustrated guide...)

Collingwood admitted his behaviour was unacceptable, though said that once he realised the nature of the bar, he finished his drink and left. He also revealed that his companions were "not massively close friends", giving rise to more speculation about who they might have been. David Graveney, the England chairman of selectors, said that the matter was now in the hands of the ECB, and Collingwood was later fined an undisclosed sum for his transgression.

But back to matters on the field. Ironically, given the flak that England's choice of Twenty20 specialists has copped, this was the day that they came good - it was the established players, at least during the run-chase, who failed.

Darren Maddy replaced Jeremy Snape (who was hopelessly out of his depth in the South Africa game) and was unrecognisable from the opener who struggled to lay bat on ball against Australia. The confidence came from a stunning run-out. He ran in from deep midwicket, picked up deftly and hurled the ball at the stumps at the bowler's end.

England fielders have struggled for direct hits of late, but this smashed into the stumps, ending a magnificent 60-run stand between Scott Styris (run out for 42) and Craig McMillan. It was the partnership that cemented New Zealand's recovery from 31 for 4, and effectively brought them victory. But then came the surprise move: Collingwood - in what was a genuine moment of inspiration - brought Maddy on for the 17th over.

True New Zealand were five-down, but they bat deep, and two middle-order big hitters, McMillan and Jacob Oram, were more than capable of carrying on the recovery. By the end of the over, Maddy's military medium had removed both.

And then England's newest opening combination came good, too. The newly confident Maddy and Solanki, who looked as though he had been keeping wicket all his life, provided what should have been the perfect foundation. Had England won, few doubted Maddy would have won the match award for his fifty, run-out and two wickets.

But over-ambitious shot selection - Pietersen fell attempting a reverse sweep - and abysmal running meant that England choked, once again. Underlying it all, though, was yet another nerveless performance from New Zealand, who were delighted to exploit every one of England's mistakes.

Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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