Because Collingwood is less talented than the greats he has to put in more effort, writes Ted Corbett
Heart of oak, the bulldog breed, the British spirit all come together in the make-up of Paul Collingwood, the lynchpin batsman as England turned a potentially disastrous 244 for seven into 393, a reminder that it was the ability to stage a fightback as much as their innate ability that won back the Ashes.
The tail-enders helped, of course, but it was Collingwood, jaw jutting, bat straight, head over the ball and steely eye never wavering, who organised, cajoled and threatened Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison and particularly the supposedly inept Monty Panesar so that 147 runs were added before the innings ended 35 minutes after lunch.
Making his mark
Let us be clear right from the start that Collingwood is not a Peter May, a Graham Gooch or a Michael Vaughan. He can bat more than adequately at Test level, as he proved by making a long, defensive 96 at Lahore late last year but he will not show you a parade of fine shots.
In fact, he has more than some of the extravagant batsmen who have gone to the wicket early for England since he was born 29 years ago. Because he is less talented than the greats he has to put in more effort, show his heart on his sleeve, prove every time he goes in to bat that he has the nerve for a battle.
In this Collingwood, born in the shipyard town of Sunderland a place more likely to produce an England World Cup footballer than a tenacious England batsman is most like Craig White, who also found the lower and slower pitches of the sub-continent to his liking.
White, an off spinner who converted to quick bowling, a great fielder and a determined middle order batsman was born in Yorkshire and brought up in Australia and that combination of Bradford grit and Victorian drive turned him into a spirited cricketer who, but for injury, might have been a cornerstone of the England side for years.
Now Collingwood has an opportunity to cement a place in the side, to simply keep fit when others are falling over and produce performances dependent on character like this first century after six Tests.
Somewhere between Trescothick piling up runs, Andrew Strauss's intensity, Vaughan's class, Pietersen's exhibitionism and Flintoff's ability to play according to the state of the game there is room for a regular guy who desperately wants success.
If Collingwood can fill that role he will find himself welcome and not just because he has such a cheerful personality, the ability to bowl a few overs and take spectacular catches at backward point.
Panesar proves a point
We know Matthew Hoggard can bat and Harmison play shots, but we all owe Panesar an apology. You may have read that he was unsure which end of the bat was to be held, that marking out his guard might be too much of a strain.
When he got off the mark there was a concerted cheer from the players' sitting area; when he leg glanced a four there was a minor ovation and when he came off after an hour's batting against 43 deliveries you might have thought Northampton Town, his nearest soccer club, had won the FA Cup. That is a bet you can take at 1,000 to one any season.