It’s been a while since I’ve brought you the latest from the land of the Prince Bishops (the sign really does say that) but this is the most appropriate time to dust off the keyboard and take you to the DH postcode. For you see this week we witness the final first class game of Cricket played by Paul David Collingwood. Don’t you forget that MBE, Shane Warne. More on that later.

Mr Durham

Paul Collingwood is Mr Durham. He made his debut in 1995 and has juggled representing his country with being a brilliant ambassador for the club and region. Durham only achieved first class status in 1992 and made a promise to bring youth players through the ranks. Collingwood was the first in a long line to go on to represent England. Durham have always done a good job of giving their own talent a chance. Albeit mixed with some more experienced players after a few wooden spoons. Yet Collingwood blazed a trail for what could be achieved from the newest first class county.

By all accounts, Collingwood wasn’t an instant star but achieved all he did due to hard work and commitment. In many ways that’s what I like most about Colly because it’s very relatable. There’s not many of us born with a natural talent. But with the right attitude and listening to the people around you, you can go on to represent your country over 300 times in various forms of the game.

An Early MBE

That might sound like I’m playing Paul Collingwood’s ability down but that is absolutely not the case. By the mid 2000s he had developed into an all-rounder capable of influencing ODI’s with both bat and ball. As well as becoming one of the world’s best fielders. Just check out a catch of his to dismiss Matthew Hayden if you’d like to see some evidence of that. A particularly good day out saw him score 112 and then take 6 wickets. Yes, it was against Bangladesh but if it was that easy everybody would be doing it.

Collingwood had to wait a little bit longer for success in Test cricket. After his debut in 2003 he struggled to secure a regular spot in the team. Often being 12th man and the first replacement if there was illness or injury. This was the role afforded to Colly during the infamous Ashes series of 2005. Where he only broke into the team for the fifth and final test, putting up a strong defence to an Australian onslaught. It was here where the MBE was awarded. Well, if he perhaps hadn’t earned it then, he certainly has now.

History Maker

I remember being so very pleased for Paul when he got his 100 in Nagpur in 2006. England have traditionally struggled in the sub continent but he helped England recover from 136-4 to post 393. This established him in the test team and I think we all remember staying up late to see the first over of the Ashes series in 2006. Fellow Durham player Steve Harmison got things off to an inauspicious start with a ball that flashed past me in my front room in North East England and England were on the backfoot from there. Despite some pretty intense sledging (relating to the MBE) he played a wonderful innings in the second test at Adelaide, scoring 206. It’s not the point England lost 5-0, Colly made everybody aware of just how good he was.

It’s easy to overlook that Paul Collingwood is the only man in history to captain the England cricket team to a tournament victory. The 2010 Twenty20 World Cup is England’s only major triumph to date. And it came at the hands of Colly. Sure, his own personal form wasn’t great but it should not surprise anybody that such an inventive cricketer was able to adapt to a new form of the game so quickly and lead a side somewhere it has never been before or since. Sorry, Ben Stokes.

His success at International level limited his time playing for Durham during their most profitable seasons, ironically. He barely featured in the 2008 and 2009 seasons which saw Durham take back to back County Championship titles. But he was captain for the 2013 success. He was also part of the 2007 Friends Provident Trophy Winning side, taking 3/33 in the final against Hampshire. Most importantly though he stuck with the county through thick and thin. Believe me it has been pretty thin in recent years. Opportunities were offered elsewhere but he is Mr Durham as far as I am concerned.

The Personal Touch

For me personally, Collingwood’s retirement signals the end of an era. I started going to cricket at the Riverside with my Grandad in the mid 1990s and Colly is the last connection to that era. Sadly he passed in May 2000 but I know he would have loved how much the county has achieved. Particularly in the the late 2000s.

I remember how proud my Grandad was when Simon Brown (Durham fast bowler of the mid 90s) got called into the England squad for the first time. This was unheard of with Durham rooted to the lower end of the table. But with England desperately searching for a left arm seamer they were unable to ignore Brown’s wicket taking prowess.

Even though Brown hadn’t been schooled at the Durham academy he was still delighted for him. We recently found a recording my Grandad took of Brown’s time batting and his spell of bowling that saw him take his first test wicket. He would have been in his element following Collingwood, Harmison, Plunkett and Onions to name but a few in years to come.

Goodbye Colly

Paul Collingwood. It’s been an incredible career, underlined by the fact he is England’s record ODI appearance maker and third highest run scorer. He has already given a lot back to the game with various coaching roles. Involvement with Durham and England is certain for years to come in some capacity. I’ll miss his nudging and dibbly dobbly bowling which may not have been blistering but it’s caused plenty of batsmen problems down the years.

Colly has one more innings to come (assuming Durham’s match with Middlesex goes the distance) and it would be lovely if he could ‘do a Cook’ and score a century. But knowing him, he’ll settle for a gritty 20 from 80 balls that wins the game. That would be the most fitting way for him to bow out. Enjoy your retirement Colly, you’ve certainly earned it.