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Wicketkeeper's ton hammered home England's superiority, says Bob

Ashes Opinion Posted 6th January 2011 view comments

The last rites have all but been performed in Sydney and Paul Collingwood will bow out of Test cricket in the best possible way on Friday - as part of an Ashes-winning England side.

For a few minutes it looked as though England might wrap up this final Test inside four days but Australia, 151 runs behind with just three wickets left at stumps, succeeded - if that's the right word - in prolonging their torture.

Lining up: Prior was the latest England player to score a century against Australia

Lining up: Prior was the latest England player to score a century against Australia

Perth aside, they've been completely humiliated this winter by an England side that has posted four innings totals over 500 - a feat few teams achieve in a series.

Today it was Matt Prior's turn to hammer home England's initiative - his maiden Ashes century, which came off 109 balls, providing a dashing example of his uninhibited stroke-play.

I'm sure Collingwood appreciates the faith that the selectors have shown in him throughout the series but he's sensible enough to realise that it's time to make way for a younger man.

Bob Willis
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Not only has he finished his series with the bat as strongly as a return of 252 runs at 50.40 suggests, but his wicket-keeping has been immaculate.

He's come a long way from the player who shelled those catches off Ryan Sidebottom in Sri Lanka in 2007, showing what can be achieved through sheer dedication and hard work.

It's staggering to think that a wicketkeeper of his calibre can't get into the one-day side but such is England's embarrassment of riches in this department.

Toothless

The same can't be said of Australia's seam unit, which has looked largely toothless in this series despite two six-wicket hauls for Peter Siddle.

I couldn't believe how poor Australia were in this area when I commentated on their Tests against Pakistan last summer, a short series in which Marcus North and Shane Watson ended up taking most of the wickets.

The writing was on the wall and little has improved since then.

While plenty of credit must go to Mitchell Johnson for producing that stunning display in Perth, his inconsistency has been staggering while Ben Hilfenhaus and Siddle have largely been straight up and down.

The difference between the two attacks was highlighted today when James Anderson and Tim Bresnan both managed to reverse swing the ball - an ability that mostly comes down to technique and one's wrist position on delivery.

England's seamers, who all seem to get on very well with bowling coach David Saker, have worked extremely hard on this aspect of their game.

There were real concerns before this series started about Anderson's potency with the Kookaburra ball because of his performance four years ago when he took five wickets at an average of 82.

Since then he has matured magnificently in every way and to date has 23 wickets to his name this series; by way of contrast, Hilfenhaus has seven at almost 60.

Most of Australia's batsmen got a start second time around but they wilted under the unrelenting pressure created by Graeme Swann and the seamers.

Swann's series figures aren't going to look great but he has succeeded in blocking up one end, thereby allowing Andrew Strauss to rotate the rest of his attack at the other to the best possible effect.

And on occasions when there has been a partnership to break, Paul Collingwood has stepped up.

Ability

This, though, is definitely the right time for him to quit Test cricket and I applaud him for making such a big decision in the best interests of the team.

Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher told him very early on in his career what was required at the top level if he was to get the most out of his ability.

As a result he altered his lifestyle, worked very hard on his skills and became superbly fit - changes that have helped him become a highly valued member of the side.

Although he still averages over 40 in Test cricket, he's been scratching around at the crease for the last 12 months or so.

He's made great contributions in other areas, most noticeably his top draw fielding and the overall professionalism he brings to the side, but he has become the weak link in England's batting.

It's almost as if his monumental effort to save the Cardiff Test in 2009 took everything out of him.

I'm sure he appreciates the faith that the selectors have shown in him throughout the series but he's sensible enough to realise that it's time to make way for a younger man.

Big challenges still lie in store - most immediately captaining England in T20 cricket and then trying to be part of a successful team at the World Cup.

Beyond that I can't see him going back to Durham and playing four-day cricket; instead, I expect he will travel play as much one-day cricket around the world as he can and good luck to him if that's the path he takes.

Comments (3)

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Duncan Simpson says...

Andrew Strauss for man of series excellent captaincy solid reliable hardly put a foot wrong.

Posted 22:32 6th January 2011

Andrew Churchill says...

Question, watching replay of Watson run out. Is it: a) possible; and b) if so has it ever happened for a double wicket by run out (one assumes batsmen colliding in the middle, or some such).

Posted 21:55 6th January 2011

Jim Labouchardiere says...

Well done England, just the last rites to perform on the twitching corpse of Australian Cricket. I must admit surprise that the series was so easily won; i always thought it would be very tight and predicted 2-2; I thought Englands 3 man pace attack would tire in the heat; the fact is they were all fantastic and Australia could not keep England in the field long enough for the attack to wilt. And Swann without taking lots of wickets has kept one end tight. A word on Paul Collingwood; i am very sorry to see him go, a great team player superb fielder (catches win matches) and a better batsman than some commentators gave him credit for; he will be missed. As a follower of English Cricket for over forty years, this has been the best.....and i was at Edgbaston 05 for the whole test, well done lads, you have cheered us all up.

Posted 16:52 6th January 2011

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