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February 16, 2009
A week ago England were beginning to comprehend their humiliation at Sabina Park yet now they have racked up a score more than 10 times their paltry 51. Andrew Strauss talked about getting back on the bike, but England have produced a performance that would make Chris Hoy proud. Five batsmen passed fifty but, most importantly, two of them posted centuries with Paul Collingwood joining Strauss in reaching three figures.
"What we spoke about after last week was to go out there and put your hand up and I think everyone did," Collingwood said. "Freddie got a stinker of a ball [bowled by a shooter for 0] but there's nothing you can do about that. Everyone was desperate to do well, I made that point a few days ago, and we've had two good days here. But it means nothing at the moment, we've got to back that up again tomorrow."
There had been a suggestion after the Kingston episode that too much rested on Kevin Pietersen's shoulders, but the burden has been impressively shared around in this innings. Pietersen contributed, yet his 51 was the most laboured innings of any of England's batsmen. It is a good sign that he can look human and yet the team still make over 550.
The autopsy that followed the massacre in Jamaica focussed mainly on the batting. One man paid the price for failure with Ian Bell's charmed run in the side coming to an end. Others, though, were also under pressure - it's hard to avoid scrutiny in such a situation. During the embarrassing second innings, Collingwood's dismissal summed up the frazzled state of mind as he inside-edged onto leg stump yet still set off for runs to fine leg. His innings here has, like Strauss's yesterday, showed how England's mindset has changed. A clear sign of when Collingwood feels confident is his footwork against the spinners, such as when he skipped down the pitch to Sulieman Benn, chipping him over mid-on.
This wasn't a Collingwood who played second fiddle. He joined Pietersen early and raced out of the blocks with a string of boundaries. There were fewer nudges and nurdles than usual and he soon overtook England's talisman, a position which he never relinquished. Pietersen isn't often outscored, especially by someone whose middle name could be 'Nuggetty', and Collingwood wasn't facing the pile of help-yourself offerings which Owais Shah was gifted yesterday. Fidel Edwards bowled West Indies' best spell of the game, showing commendable stamina, and deserved more than Jimmy Anderson's scalp.
There was another burst during the afternoon session when Edwards began to find some reverse swing. Collingwood read the situation, as he often does, and was content to weather the spell. Sure enough, a short while later the part-timers were back on. By now he was feeling so confident that he sashayed down the pitch to Brendan Nash and clumped him over mid-on.
Collingwood is too far into his international career to shake the workmanlike tag that dangles around his neck. Partly that is down to style, he is rarely pretty to watch and when out of form his innings can be painful to endure. When his career was teetering on the brink against South Africa it almost felt like time to say 'Paul, stop, let it go', but watching the emotion in that second-innings hundred was worth the turmoil.
This was his third ton in nine innings, including that career-saver, followed by his 108 in Chennai. And, although judging a cricketer involves more than just bare numbers, Collingwood's figures stand up well. Certainly they are streets ahead of Bell, who some still argue should be in ahead of him because he 'looks classy'. Looks don't matter; it's what's in the scorebook that counts.
"You've got to adapt your game on different wickets," he said. "Playing in England, [at] the Edgbaston Test, it was a different wicket to Chennai and over here. It's nice to score hundreds at any time, but facing a different team and different bowlers is very satisfying."
When Collingwood spoke between Tests about how the batsmen felt about their failure in Jamaica he responded with: "It's our jobs." It was a simple phrase, but said with meaning. Everyday people who struggle with their jobs don't do it in the glare of publicity. Not that these players deserve too much sympathy - they are handsomely paid these days - but when they follow failure with success they deserve praise in equal amounts. England said they would try everything to right the wrongs of last week and no one can argue with the results. So far, at least.