Paul Collingwood is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Durham’s captain leads his team out at Taunton in the County Championship in the midst of a purple patch.
This is supposed to be his last season as a professional cricketer, but so good has his form been that he is starting to backtrack on the idea just a little.
Ironically, it is his preparations for life after playing that could extend his career.
Knowing the end was nigh, Collingwood signed up for a number of coaching assignments over the winter.
The first took him to the Middle East as part of Scotland’s coaching staff for the World Twenty20 qualifiers. Scotland missed out, but Collingwood impressed enough to be promoted to joint head coach for the next tournament, this time to reach the 50-over World Cup, which they duly did. England – or more specifically, his old team-mate Ashley Giles (pictured below) – took notice. Giles recruited Collingwood as his fielding coach for England’s World Cup campaign. Had Giles, as expected, been promoted to take over the running of the England team, Collingwood might have been left with a difficult decision to make.
As it was, England – and their fielding, it must be said – disappointed (although there was much comment about how good Scotland’s was at Aberdeen this month), and Giles missed the boat.
But it is noticeable since Collingwood returned to the Durham fold how his game has improved over the winter. He puts it down to learning from the England players who were supposed to have been learning from him.
His 74 from 78 balls at Sussex on Wednesday rolled back the years, and on Friday – back in the ranks while Mark Stoneman captains in the short forms – he was man of the match as Durham kicked off the Twenty20 season with victory over Worcestershire.
“I am really enjoying my cricket, and I have been telling the boys it is amazing I have even been hitting a few balls through extra-cover these past few games,” says Collingwood, self-deprecating as ever.
“I am really enjoying my batting at the moment. You never know what it is going to happen in the future, but if I keep smiling like this then I might have to play another year.”
In the absence of the injured Ben Stokes, Collingwood’s bowling has been more prominent in this season’s Championship, and remains potent with a white ball in hand. “Yeah, it is a form of the game I enjoy bowling in,” he says.
“I haven’t got the greatest pace in the world, but if you can try to out-think the batsmen and try to execute then that is half the battle. You use your experience to defend the runs.
“I am still fit enough at the moment, and I want to continue.”
Collingwood’s Durham are the draw specialists of the Championship’s Division One, and Somerset’s home ground is notoriously difficult to conjure a result on. Ten of the last 13 games between the sides have been drawn, and Durham’s only win in the sequence was at Chester-le-Street.
“You usually expect a wicket which looks green to begin with, and looks as if you would want to bowl on it first,” says Collingwood.
“It is pretty flat, it will probably get a little bit flatter then maybe turn a little bit on day four.
“It is usually hard to get 20 wickets down there, but you never know.”
It will be harder still for Durham to take 20 wickets with Graham Onions suffering a back injury.
Jamie Harrison has recovered from a blistered foot, and is likely to replace him.
Scotland Under-19 bowler Gavin Main is again in the 13-man squad. Ryan Pringle – another yet to make his Championship debut – is the second spin option if the Taunton pitch looks like it will take a lot of turn.