Cow Corner

Wonder-Paul

Cow Corner

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It's been almost four years since England won THAT Ashes series against Australia and set about drinking their combined bodyweight on a drinking tour of London.

It was the summer that made heroes of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, earning the pair world-beating reputations that have seen them command $1 million apiece to appear in this year's IPL.

But as we head towards the 2009 edition of the biggest grudge match in cricket, neither Flintoff nor Pietersen are looking particularly comfortable in their superhero costumes.

KP has been a pale imitation of his 2005 vintage in recent months, perhaps still affected by the debacle that was his short-lived England captaincy.

As for Flintoff, a knee injury on IPL duty saw him require surgery. For a player so reliant on swashbuckling physicality, anything short of optimum fitness would leave England short-changed.

Of course, both could well find the Ashes a reinvigorating experience, but if KP and Flintoff do shirk their hero duties, Paul Collingwood is Cow Corner's tip as the man to take centre stage.

Collingwood was once again highly influential for England in their most recent hammering of West Indies at Bristol.

The Durham man bowled with real intelligence to bag three wickets, combining changes of pace with swing and movement off the seam.

Granted, the WIndies are not exactly Australia, but Dwayne Bravo had moved fluently to 50 when Collingwood fooled him and knocked down his castle.

Collingwood followed that with a quickfire 47 from 50 balls to see England home to victory, batting with measured aggression and with the target always in sight.

It was the latest in a long line of match-winning performances from England's understated, unsung hero.

But in the absence of KP and Flintoff, Collingwood's efforts gave England fans more than a glimmer of hope that if the dynamic duo are below their best this summer, he could be the man to save them.

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