Ashes Series and World Cups have traditionally been competitions which England have looked at as four-year cycles to build a team for. The 2005 Ashes was great for English cricket but it was the preparation behind it that got England those great results.
A good 2-2 draw with South Africa at home in 2003 was then backed up (forgetting a poor 1-0 series defeat in Sri Lanka) by a splendid 2004 season in which they defeated the West Indies (twice) and New Zealand in series wins.
In those three series they only failed to win one match, that being the 4th test match of the West Indies tour when Brian Lara scored his world record 400* at St Johns.
After those series, England then toured South Africa where great batting from the likes of Marcus Trescothick, Graham Thorpe and Andrew Strauss earned them a 2-1 series victory. Of course then England won those 2005 Ashes, where in the last test match Paul Collingwood came into the team.
In that match at the Oval he scored only 17 runs and took one catch—gaining an MBE much to the ridicule of Shane Warne and thousands of Australians. In the second innings of that match he scored 10 off 51 balls, helping Kevin Pietersen adding 60 runs in 72 minutes which helped save that test match.
Fast forward four years and again England have won back the Ashes. Collingwood this time round played in all the tests and is very much a senior member of the team. However aside from his "Brigadier block" innings which helped save the Cardiff test and a breezy half century at Lords, he had a quiet series.
Not only that, but after the Lords test match he just looked like a walking wicket. It was hard to see in the final three test matches of the series just how he would score runs.
Collingwood is a likeable cricketer and he has shown in the past that he's the type of cricketer who when the going gets tough for England, that’s when he's at his best. After a poor 2008 season in England, his test career was well and truly on the line in last summer's fourth test versus South Africa.
After having suffered from some poor umpiring decisions through that summer, Collingwood came to the crease knowing that another low score and he'd be out of the team.
With a lot of pressure on his shoulders he scored a terrific 135 to give England a chance to win that test and square the series. The match though was lost as Graeme Smith scored a terrific unbeaten century to guide his team to a five-wicket victory.
That knock by the Durham man kept his place in the team and he has since gone on to score three more centuries for England. However at the end of the Ashes, England find themselves in a position of strength in which they can make changes and improve the team.
Collingwood is someone who gives the team stability in the middle order and is one of the team's best fielders—the question is: Is that good enough for England in the long-term.
England without Flintoff will probably revert back to six batsmen and four bowlers in their line-up. Pietersen will come back into the team reverting back to his position as No. 4 allowing Collingwood to drop back to six.
England at the moment can't without a top class all-rounder in the side afford to go in with five bowlers so for now Collingwood's position is safe. However should he struggle on that tour, with England facing Bangladesh and Pakistan next summer perhaps that could be time for Collingwood to go?
By then perhaps Broad could bat at seven and perhaps Adil Rashid may have been given his debut. Last time England won the Ashes, after being hit by injuries they failed to gain any momentum and have been inconsistent in the last couple of years.
Its more important now than ever that the selectors and everyone in the team continues to improve as the Ashes in Australia in 2010/2011 are not that far away. By then guys like Joe Denly, Rashid, and even Stephen Moore could be pressing for call-ups to the side.
It’s an important 15 months for Paul Collingwood who will need to do well to gain a place in the next Ashes, which in all probability could well be his test swansong. It's also an important 15 months for the team who will need to get good momentum going into that Ashes series and who will also be building for the 2011 World Cup.
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