Paul Collingwood. Not a name you will hear on the lips of screaming schoolboys but cricket lovers across England would be grateful for his determined effort on day two at Nagpur. Unfashionable and workmanlike he chipped away at the Indians, wrested the initiative and lifted England to a position of strength.
The script seemed to be already written, by the Indians, as England looked to have lost the plot after a bright start, slipping to 247 for 7 by the end of the first day. It was then that Collingwood took charge, guiding the tail, never imposing himself as he encouraged the tail to flourish by rotating the strike. First, he had a leisurely partnership with Matthew Hoggard, then allowed the ebullient Stephen Harmison to express himself - the No.10 batsman provided a delightful cameo - and then shepherded the gritty Monty Panesar as England managed to pull off a heist and run away to a good total.
He reminds you of Jonty Rhodes in his approach. Although he doesn.t exhibit the nervous energy that the South African possessed, Collingwood, a brilliant fielder himself, chooses to operate in the same areas that Rhodes used to do. He flicked between mid-wicket and mid-on, presented a dead bat and sprinted for quick singles, suddenly jumped out to the spinners, and on rare occasions hit the mediumpacers straight over their head. But for the most part, he defended, offered the full face, and looked for singles.
After Harmison fell, Collingwood - he was on 79 when Panesar joined him - took charge, upped the ante, and pulled out the big shots from his bag. With Panesar anchored at the other end, Collingwood rapidly moved towards his maiden Test hundred. He glided down the track to loft Anil Kumble over long-on for a six to reach 99, and lifted him again in the next ball for three to trigger celebrations in the dressing room. It was a very vulnerable England team that had taken the field this match, sans their top stars, and a poor first day that piled up their agony but Collingwood had managed to put the smile back on his team-mates. faces.