Late Collingwood: The phrase has a lyrical or maybe academic ring to it, doesn't it? It might refer to a slim volume by a Romantic poet or the latter thoughts of the British Idealist philosopher.
For spectators who watched the final day of Lancashire's Division One game against Durham the phrase should prompt different recollections. For them it may evoke images of a 36-year-old former England batsman who has now returned to county cricket and who still defends his wicket with every fibre of his being, just as he did one golden Sunday afternoon in July 2009 when the full fury of the Australian attack was unleashed against him.
Paul Collingwood remains an admirable cricketer and a fine captain. His innings of 114 against Lancashire on Friday was full of the bottom-handed defiance which has served Durham well for some 16 seasons. It included eleven boundaries and it helped Collingwood's beloved county to a 164-run lead on first innings. That left Lancashire with a tricky 32 overs to negotiate, or it would have done had not rain arrived at tea time to extinguish any chance of further cricket.
The LV= Division One match was abandoned as a draw and the only sliver of joy for Red Rose followers was provided by the news from New Road that Middlesex had beaten Worcestershire, thus leaving Lancashire in eighth place in the table, one point ahead of Daryl Mitchell's side going into next week's match at Lord's. The home of cricket could be about to witness yet more drama; it may be time for Lancashire supporters to suppress their misty-eyed regret and repair once again to the matches of the southron folk.
We had some 63 overs entertainment at Liverpool on Friday, and for all that the match seemed destined to end in a draw, it was entertaining stuff. Only anhedoniacs could have derived no pleasure from it. Simon Kerrigan got his side's pursuit of three bowling bonus points off to a fine start when he extracted enough turn and bounce from a flat wicket to have Michael Richardson caught at second slip by Tom Smith for 41. Phil Mustard followed four overs later, snaffled in the leg trap by Ashwell Prince off Kerrigan in a dismissal which prompted memories of the close catching of Alan Oakman or Tony Lock.
Those wickets left Durham on 205 for six but the next three hours or so were dominated by Collingwood and Scott Borthwick adding 148 runs for the seventh wicket in 48 overs. Both batsmen played very well, although both were dropped and Glen Chapple in particular was a trifle unlucky not to see the edges go to hand. Instead we had the melancholy sight of the Lancashire skipper trooping off to mid-on at the end of an over, his sweater held forlornly in one hand by his side, as he pondered the injustices of this world and their frequent visitations upon him.
Eventually Borthwick was dismissed, caught by Chapple himself off Keedy for 60 and the last three Durham wickets were all claimed by Steven Croft who finshed with three for 33 from 8.1 overs. Nice work if you can get it, he may have thought. Collingwood edged an attempted cut onto his stumps and left Aigburth to a very warm ovation. (Will this fine batsman play another first-class innings against Lancashire?) Callum Thorp was bowled by Croft for a breezy 25 and Chris Rushworth was caught by Prince at deep mid off for seven. And that, as the great umpire Alec Skelding used to say, concluded the entertainment for both the day and the match. Kerrigan did well to take four for 128 and Keedy likewise to claim three for 101.
Lancashire have little time to ponder any regrets they may have. They have a CB40 semi-final to play and two rather important championship games in the offing. The thoughts of coach Peter Moores were as follows:
“We are frustrated because we needed a win and we are disappointed we didn’t get enough runs in the first innings," he said. "We showed character to come back, but the pitch was proven to be a good one. Graham Onions bowled very well, but I’m disappointed we didn’t see off that new ball on day one.”
“We don’t know how many points we will need to stay up. The key is to go in to the last game needing to know a win would keep us up. We know it is going to go down to the wire and if we win at Lord’s it will keep us in it going into the last game.
“It seems that out of our last five Championship games we have played only two days of each one because of the weather. We have had hardly any full four-day games and that is frustrating. We have to focus on trying to win both games. If we draw at Middlesex, we might still be in with a chance going into the final match.
“Playing to win and playing to stay up are different things. If you are playing to win something, then there is natural confidence there because you have been playing well going into it. Realistically if we finish the next two weeks well, we could be in a Lord’s final and staying in the First Division. That is a fantastic carrot to play for especially because Lancashire haven’t played in a Lord’s final for such a long time. The players are aware of that and are switched on to that.”
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Craig Galloway