Record-breaking Collingwood's clout of Africa
PAUL COLLINGWOOD take a bow. Two wickets and an undefeated century as he broke Alec Stewart's record of 170 England one-day international appearances - and South Africa crushed by seven wickets. What a day for the Man of the Match. Oh, and typically, a flying catch at backward point to dismiss danger man AB De Villiers for two.
The Durham dynamo (left, with me at The Oval earlier this year) ended with 2-24 off six overs with the ball as South Africa could only manage 250-9 off their 50 overs at Centurion. Then, with a little help from Jonathan Trott, 87, and Eoin Morgan, 27 off just 18 balls, Colly scored a magnificent 105 off 110 to see England home.
Home captain Graeme Smith, who gets more articulate by the day since his early, clumsy attempts at verbalising on his first tour in charge here back in 2005, was left admitting candidly: "I think the realisation has dawned that we're in for a long, hard summer of cricket against England.
"Credit to them, they bowled well and we were 30 runs short. I think we were a little soft with a few dismissals in the middle. I'd like to congratulate Paul Collingwood...and we will have to be at out best from now on."
How's that for a change of mood? Just a week ago, South Africa raced to a record Twenty20 victory at the same ground (curiously the hero of that game, Loots Bosman, was left out in the longer form of the game) and injury-hit England looked in all sorts of trouble despite somehow contriving to draw the two-match wham-bam series.
The 50 over game made the South Africans look impatient and under-prepared. Collingwood said: "To be fair this was a completely different track today. Last week was a quick track, the ball was coming onto the bat. I thought we bowled really well and I had great support from Trotty and Morgs.
"Jonathan just took was he does in county cricket and did it here. To be fair, his international innings so far have all been magnificent.
"It was a big day for me, but I thought the team were fantastic all the way through. I had a bad back last week but the medical staff did a great job and hopefully I'll be fine now."
As a Sunday cricketer lucky enough to have netted with Collingwood, and ghosted newspaper columns with him, you can rest assured a day like today couldn't happen to a finer fellow. A handy golfer and all-round sporting genius, Collingwood has often been lambasted for being something less than Andrew Flintoff as an all-rounder. If England are to live without Freddie, we have to start loving Colly more.
Lifted by a warm-up win against South Africa A in Potchefstroom, England were magnificent today, apart from a couple of dropped catches from captain Andrew Strauss, who also failed with the bat.
But as he picked up the magnificent R15,000 winners' cheque (that's about £1,000, which won't go far back home), Strauss was all smiles. He did all the captain had to today, winning the toss before play had even started. He said: "It was an imporant toss to win, I think the pitch flattened out a bit for us. But I was very happy with how we bowled. It was a professional performance. Paul and Jonathan played very well and hopefully we can take this forward. We aren't going to get carried away, but we're fairly happy with where we are at the moment."
With three more one-dayers to go - the first was rained off in Johannesburg on Friday - followed by the four Tests, we're all fairly happy Straussie. And as Collingwood said: "We'll just have to give the captain some catching practice."