Cricket: England go 1 up in the best-of-three game Commonwealth Bank Series final against Australia.
Collingwood breathes new life into England
By Simon Briggs in Melbourne
"Alleluia! England finally won a proper cricket match against Australia - and no cribbing that it wasn't the full team."
England win by 4 wickets
England are 1-0 up in the 3-game Final.
English cricket has been the subject of countless obituaries, but somehow the patient never seems to lie down. After yesterday's stunning win in Melbourne, England look as if they might leave Australia with a trophy – something they have not managed since 1987.
Mission accomplished: Paul Collingwood celebrates victory
On a steamy night at the MCG, Paul Collingwood produced the performance of his life to carry England home by four wickets. It was an extraordinary effort, because Australia had been utterly dominant for the first 30 overs of the match. But England have shown an unquenchable spirit over the last week.
Their sheer resilience has been a wonder to behold, and could yet supply a triumphant twist to this harrowing tour.
The Test series may not have lived up to expectations, but yesterday's match came as close as any one-day international can to matching the stomach-turning swoops and lurches of the 2005 Ashes. At 170 for one, with Ricky Ponting on the verge of another virtuoso hundred, Australia looked to have a 300-run total in their sights. But that was until Collingwood knocked this over-familiar record out of its groove, accounting for Ponting with a blinding one-handed catch at cover.
When Matthew Hayden holed out at long-on, England were suddenly into the middle order, which is not so imposing in the absence of Andrew Symonds. Wickets just kept falling, two of them courtesy of Collingwood's dead-eyed throws at the stumps. As the ball softened, the boundaries dried up, but the breakthroughs kept coming. Andrew Flintoff, in particular, was irresistible in a second spell of 4.3-1-22-3. He ripped a perfect yorker through Glenn McGrath's defences, finishing Australia off with nine balls unused.
Even after England's comeback, which closed with a sequence of four wickets for as many runs, Australia were still favourites to defend a target of 253. The pitch had two paces – very slow and positively somnolent – and after a couple of dicey lbw decisions and an early miscue from Ed Joyce, the scoreboard showed a sickly-looking 15 for three. A few overs later, McGrath had a chance to apply the coup de grace when Ian Bell pulled one straight to him at long-leg, but he shelled one of the easiest catches of his career.
On his 37th birthday, McGrath never fully regained his poise, handing England bonus runs with a series of fielding errors. He remains a threat with the ball, but his lack of foot speed and increasing fallibility as a catcher put him out of synch with his team.
Bell and Collingwood set about repairing the early damage. Their stand of 133 in 144 balls was rarely spectacular, containing just 30 runs in boundaries, but they ran well, manoeuvred the ball smartly, and kept chipping away at the target. By the time Brett Lee winkled Bell out with a 95mph yorker, the game was in the balance.
Collingwood now took control of the chase, masterminding stands of 74 with Flintoff and 28 (unbroken) with Paul Nixon. The only time the run-rate seemed to be getting away from him was with three overs to go, when England still needed 25. But he responded with consecutive boundaries from the next two balls, going down on one knee to scoop Shane Watson twice over fine-leg.
It was not a great night for Watson. Ponting took a gamble in entrusting him with that critical over, when he might have been better off using Nathan Bracken, and it played into England's hands.
Collingwood, fittingly, flicked the winning run through midwicket. He finished unbeaten on 120, his second century in consecutive games, and now looks unrecognisable from the figure who cobbled together 132 runs from nine innings during the month of January.
Perhaps it was Shane Warne's incessant sledging that got to him, or just the fall-out from a dismal Ashes campaign. Whatever the explanation, he has turned things around in style.
"In all my time playing one-day cricket for England that is the best innings I have seen," Flintoff said. "The way he paced it, his stamina, and his concentration were a lesson for everyone watching. It was fantastic to see Paul playing like that."
Collingwood was at a loss to explain his change in form. "The only noticeable thing I have done different is change my bat handle to a pink one," he said. "It is amazing once you have a bit of luck in the middle how it can get you back into form."
After all the flak they have taken, Andrew Flintoff and co now find themselves leading this best-of-three finals series 1-0. If they can manage just one more victory, they will carry off the Commonwealth Bank Series trophy, while also puncturing Australia's infuriating air of self-satisfaction.
All in all, it was not a bad night for the outfit dubbed the worst team ever to leave England.
England (253-6) beat Australia (252) by four wickets
Paul Collingwood's second consecutive hundred led England to victory over Australia in the first Commonwealth Bank Series final
Collingwood, 30, hit an unbeaten 120, his highest score in one-day internationals, to guide his side to a four-wicket win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Fittingly, he finished things when he struck Nathan Bracken through midwicket for a single in the final over of the match
A late stutter threatened to harm England's bid but, with 25 needed from the final three overs, Collingwood took responsibility.
Twice in as many balls he hit boundaries to the legside off Shane Watson to alter the balance
England initially lost three wickets inside the first half-a-dozen overs to heavily jeopardise their chances.
Openers Mal Loye and Ed Joyce succumbed to paceman Brett Lee - the former the victim of a poor leg-before decision by Australian umpire Daryl Harper - while Andrew Strauss was pinned lbw by Bracken after playing around his front pad
At first intent on containing the damage, the fourth-wicket pair upped the tempo impressively. From a position of 41 for three after 15 overs, they launched 48 from the next six.
Collingwood, whose hundred against New Zealand earlier this week was integral to getting to the finals, hoisted McGrath for a huge six during that period
When Lee produced a yorker to knock back Bell's off stump Australia had a chance. They relinquished it, however, when a double error allowed lives for both Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff from the same piece of play.
Collingwood turned to the legside off McGrath and came back for two, but rather than take the bails off from Michael Hussey's throw, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist relayed to the bowler's end where a combination of McGrath and Lee (pictured) missed the opportunity
Flintoff was also put down before he added another run by substitute Mitchell Johnson at extra cover off the bowling of spinner Brad Hogg.
Just as the game appeared in the bag, however, Flintoff - whose only boundary in an innings of 35 was a six off Hogg - feathered a catch behind off Shane Watson (pictured).
When Jamie Dalrymple was sacrificed in the following over, run out trying to steal a single to point, 28 were still required from 23 deliveries, but thanks to Collingwood England made it to the finishing line
Earlier, England produced an outstanding riposte in the field to dismiss the Australians for 252.
The home country appeared poised to post a huge total as they entered the final 20 overs of the innings on 170 with nine wickets intact
However, a stunning catch from Collingwood ended Ricky Ponting's run-a-ball 75 and triggered a fall of nine wickets inside 19 overs.
Collingwood also effected two run-outs to cap a fine day in the field personally
Stolen singles were a feature of the 138-run stand for the second wicket, but Ponting and Matthew Hayden should have been parted in the 29th over.
Ponting pushed into the offside off Monty Panesar and his initial call committed Hayden to a run.
Dalrymple seized on the ball but a poor under-arm return and clumsiness from Panesar, who demolished the stumps at the bowler's end, saw the opportunity wasted
Ultimately England got away with it, however, as, in Panesar's next over, Ponting cracked a cut to short cover, where Collingwood clung on low to his left.
Hayden followed soon afterwards to off-spinner Dalrymple for 82, after towering a catch to long on, and England made light of being without the injured Michael Vaughan as the final six Aussie wickets fell for 33
Australia Line Up
England Line Up
Last edited by Blackleaf; Feb 10th, 2007 at 06:06 AM..