England Cricket Players
A natural athlete, with a happy-go-lucky temperament, Paul Collingwood is perhaps the first specialist fielder to earn regular selection for a Test squad. He made England's one-day team in 2001, but four years and numerous tours later, he had played in just three Tests. The third of these, however, was the single biggest match of his generation - the decisive fifth Test against Australia at The Oval, where his responsible batting helped secure the draw that England needed for a first Ashes triumph in 18 years. His selection for this match, plus the award of a England central contract in 2001, spoke volumes of the esteem with which he was held by the management. An uncomplaining understudy, he has risen to become arguably the finest fielder in the world today, capable of breathtaking moments in the covers and backward point. He was originally picked as an allrounder, though it was his batting that first attracted attention. He stands still at the crease, plays the ball straight and has a tantalising range of strokes up his sleeve. In Australia in 2002-03 he started the VB Series as 12th man, but was soon spanking a memorable maiden international century against Sri Lanka at Perth - a round 100 that confirmed his place in the 2003 World Cup squad. His bowling verges towards the dibbly-dobbly, but given the right conditions he can be irresistible, as he proved with a matchwinning display of swing bowling in the third one-day game against New Zealand in 2001-02. The final tick in his column is determination - realising he was treading water, he despatched himself to Melbourne in the winter of 2000-01 to play grade cricket. He duly won the prestigious Jack Ryder Medal, and was on hand for an Ashes call-up two years later. He missed much of the summer of 2004 owing to a persistent knee injury, but returned for England in the NatWest Challenge series against India in September - where he struck a lusty 79 not out in a matchwinning partnership with Andrew Flintoff. His Test appearances may be limited but in one-day cricket he is being groomed as England's finisher.